Old Electric Vehicle Batteries Can Be Recycled into New Sources of Energy –Even Used to Power 7-11 Stores

An increase in the sale and use of electric vehicles (EVs) is vital for many governments to reach their stated CO2 reduction targets, however if special regard is not quickly given to advancing the technology in recycling the battery packs of these EVs, our landfills could be overrun.

Looking for a solution to the battery waste problem, a study published in Nature by University of Birmingham researchers presents this sticky situation alongside some innovative ways to help combat it. For example, stations of retired EV batteries can be used to reinforce unstable grid networks in developing countries, or used to power things at home.

The study explains that, like the batteries in older mobile phones, an EV battery at the end of its automobile life could still maintain 80% operating capacity and could be easily repurposed for jobs elsewhere in society.

Even now, Toyota, producer of the Prius—one of the most, if not the most, successful hybrid cars in history—has joined forces with 7-11 stores in Japan to expand the integration of the electric vehicle byproducts into Japanese society.

Their project, in line with the latest recommendations from the Birmingham researchers, aims to utilize banks of expended EV batteries from Toyota cars in conjunction with solar panels to power 7-11 stores, while new fuel-cell EVs powered by hydrogen will be serving as the distribution fleet for the legendary convenience store chain.

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Meanwhile, we can extract minerals from batteries, while at the same time avoiding the environmentally-damaging mining practices that use a lot of water.

Nissan NV200 by Kārlis-Dambrāns, CC license

“Electric vehicles may prove to be a valuable secondary resource for critical materials, and it has been argued that high cobalt-content batteries should be recycled immediately to bolster cobalt supplies”, the study says.

Another mineral present in EV batteries, lithium, is one of the most critical minerals for building batteries for our portable devices and key electronic components in society like video processors and microchips.

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To gather merely one ton of lithium requires the mining of 250 tons of the mineral ore spodumene, or 750 tons of mineral-rich brine. Therefore extracting lithium from car batteries (since estimates suggest that we only need 256 used EV batteries to produce 1 ton of lithium) can avoid this water-intensive carbon-intensive method of production.

In 2017, the worldwide sales of electric cars exceeded 1 million units for the first time. Market research group Deloitte reported that this figure doubled during 2018, and is close to doubling again, from 2 million to 4 million by the end of 2020.

Those are big secondary resources for minerals, which could negate the need for mining many additional tons in order to power the world we love.

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Electric Car Completes UK’s Longest and Most Complex Autonomous Journey

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A top-secret electric vehicle has completed the UK’s longest and most complex autonomous car journey by self-navigating itself along 230 miles on British roads.

The modified 2017 electric Nissan LEAF travelled from the Nissan Technical Center Europe (NTCE) in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, to the brand’s manufacturing plant in Sunderland.

Over the course of the journey, the autonomous car tackled road junctions, roundabouts, motorways, and even country lanes with little or no road markings.

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The car’s autonomous technology activated along the route to change lanes, merge, and stop and start when necessary. The only moment the passenger took control of the LEAF was to drive into motorway services—in order to charge it.

The UK government-backed HumanDrive project, which took place on public roads with surrounding motorists none the wiser, is the result of 30 months of work by a consortium of industry leaders.

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“Our Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy is supporting transport innovation for cleaner, greener and smarter transport,” said Future of Transport Minister, George Freeman, MP from the UK Department For Transport. “Nissan’s successful HumanDrive project is an exciting example of how the next phase of the UK’s transport revolution could look.”

Nissan worked with Hitachi, Highways England, and a number of other partners to produce one of the most technologically advanced autonomous vehicles ever seen.

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By building a dataset of previously encountered traffic scenarios and solutions, it can use this “learned experience” to handle similar scenarios in the future and plot a safe route around an obstacle.

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Capable of handling narrow winding roads with no lane division markings and poorly-marked roundabouts all on its own, the LEAF’s technology was designed to create a more familiar and comfortable experience for passengers in the car.

The HumanDrive project demonstrates how car firms like Nissan, along with other industry leaders and the UK government are committed to making autonomous vehicles a reality on European roads.

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HumanDrive is jointly funded by the UK government through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), Innovate UK, and nine other consortium partners. The joint funding package for the project totaled £13.5 million ($17.5 million).

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“Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision is to develop autonomous drive technologies for use in all of our cars in any area of the world,” said David Moss, senior vice president for Research & Development in Europe, Nissan Europe. “The door is now open to build on this successful UK research project, as we move towards a future which is more autonomous, more electric, and more connected.”

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Denmark Researchers Use Seaweed to Power a Car

Each year, 25 million tons of seaweed is harvested, most of which is in Asia and used for human consumption and cosmetics. But what about using it to power our vehicles?

Danish scientists recently announced they have used a seaweed fuel to power an automobile, achieving speeds of 50 mph (80 kph), using a biofuel created by a Dutch company.

“We’ve looked to see if seaweed fuel works in the same way as ordinary fuel and what its effect is on the motor,” Jaap van Hal, who led the research team, told Noordhollands Dagblad.

One of the largest sources of clean renewable energy used today is biofuels. Produced from garbage or the agricultural byproducts from growing crops like sugar, corn, and soya, it contributes to energy security while also reducing carbon emissions.

Within Europe’s transportation sector the vast majority of renewable energy-powered solutions utilize these land-based sources of biofuel. However it requires land, fertilizer, and irrigation resources to produce these biofuels, so Europe is looking largely towards ocean-based sources of biofuel—namely algae and seaweed, which need nothing more than saltwater and sun to grow incredibly fast.

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Dr. van Hal says learning to manage a 10-acre seaweed farm is similar to managing a 1,000-acre farm. To turn seaweed fuel into a reality, though, requires a supply on a “huge scale”. Even though one farm is currently a “dot on the horizon”, van Hal is nevertheless excited to move forward.

Van Hal is the scientific coordinator for EU-funded MacroFuels, aiming to create an entire industry around seaweed biofuels that includes cultivation and production and testing—specifically for heavy machinery like trucks and ships with diesel engines.

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Several other European firms are looking into increasing the proliferation of seaweed or algae biofuels for the EU energy sector.

Norway, for instance, is plotting a similar course, with a startup called Alginor planning the creation of a bio-refinery for seaweed and algae growing in the North Sea.

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