How toxic are the batteries in electric cars?
Are electric cars dangerous?
“Electric vehicle batteries are mounted on electric vehicles after passing severe safety verification tests such as crash test, watertight test, immersion test, and combustion test, and deemed safe thanks to its design, which protects the battery from physical shock.”
Electric car Safety
For any electric cars to be sold, manufacturers have to comply with specific design regulations and the majority of those features should ensure that their vehicle is safe enough for drivers. However, the power source of an electric vehicle presents a risk of hazard and manufacturers are developing the corresponding safety features to lessen the risks.
The Lithium-ion battery is combustible and can catch fires, it has power cells that can cause short-circuiting if it is damaged. However, lithium-ion batteries have a much lower risk of fire explosions than gasoline in conventional vehicles. To prevent external damage or short circuit, electric vehicle batteries are usually surrounded by a protective cooling shroud filled with coolant liquid. In addition, in spite of external cooling, all electric vehicles are installed in an array rather than one huge lithium-ion battery pack to prevent damage from malfunction.
A lithium-ion battery has a much narrower range of operation about 15 to 45 degrees, while modern standard vehicles are designed to operate in temperatures from minus 30 degrees celsius to heat beyond 50 degrees. Remaining within the particular temperature range is highly critical. Utilizing either fluid or air, cooling management and monitoring is highly recommended for the actual safety of the battery, vehicle, and the occupants.
From having larger battery packs with more cells to put in larger battery packs with packed capacity, they are all susceptible to thermal runaway. Containing a flammable liquid electrolyte, each cell in a lithium-ion battery, when the cell short-circuits, the electrolyte can combust and the pressure will increase at speed. Thermal runaway is an unstoppable chain reaction causing a fire at temperatures of 60 and above. Manufacturers are designing several ways to prevent and reduce the impact of thermal runaway in electric cars.
The electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries, which is full of flammable materials with harmful chemicals, can catch fire under any circumstances. However, manufacturers are questioning the problem by dividing the battery into small cells with separating fire-walls. It can be at least delayed from spreading to neighboring parts. Some engineers are making less risky electrolytes: less flammable and produce fewer harmful chemicals.
Thanks to the ongoing development and research, there have not been serious electric vehicle incidents yet. However, it should be still required that electric vehicles are sure to be safer than internal combustion engine vehicles in every regard.
Nearly Half of Americans Think Electric Vehicle Batteries Are Not Recyclable
A new study finds that 47% of Americans don’t know EV batteries can be recycled over and over without reduced performance, one of many misconceptions still lingering as EV adoption rises.
December 13, 2022
(Credit: Bet_Noire/Getty Images)
While electric vehicle sales have nearly doubled in the past year, they still represent just over 5% of vehicles on the road, and many of the other drivers are still guessing at how they work.
Some of the biggest misconceptions about EVs are related to batteries and battery recycling, according to a new survey (Opens in a new window) of 1,004 randomly selected US consumers by Ascend Elements (Opens in a new window) . Almost half (47%) believe that EV batteries cannot be recycled at all, and they will pile up in landfills full of toxic, leaking, old batteries. However, an impressive 39% are aware that batteries can be recycled and rehabbed over and over to make new EV batteries without performance loss.
“We’ve encountered many myths and misconceptions about electric vehicles and, in particular, EV battery recycling,” says Roger Lin, VP of Global Marketing and Government Relations at Ascend Elements. “The industry has made terrific advances in the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of lithium-ion battery recycling, but these false narratives about EV batteries continue. [It should be] unthinkable to let a lithium-ion battery go to landfill. They are just too valuable.”
EV batteries sit at the base of the vehicle between the four wheels. (Credit: Golden Sikorka/Getty Images)
The top five minerals inside the batteries—lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite—are known as «critical minerals.» They are expensive, and largely sourced via environmentally taxing mines mostly located outside the US. About 45% of respondents think the US isn’t competitive when it comes to manufacturing lithium-ion EV batteries, and they’re right: China accounts for 70% of global battery production, according to a Congressional Research report (Opens in a new window) .
“The extent to which China is way ahead of everyone else is a shocker,” said Michael Dunne, CEO of electric vehicle consultancy ZoZoGo (Opens in a new window) when we interviewed him earlier this year. “The United States isn’t used to being the underdog, and that’s where we are when it comes to electric vehicles and batteries. They have the largest factories and so many companies.”
Efforts to build out America’s battery business are underway. President Biden has allocated $2.8 billion for new manufacturing facilities and research, and crafted the 2023 EV tax credit requirements such that qualifying vehicles must have a certain percentage of domestically sourced batteries.
(Credit: Fortune Business Insights)
New recycling facilities like Redwood Materials (Opens in a new window) , run by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, are also coming online with the promise of creating a circular domestic battery supply chain. Another is Li-Cycle (Opens in a new window) , which has three plants in the US (New York, Arizona, and a new one Alabama), and one in Ontario, Canada, with a combined processing capacity of 30,000 tons a year, Electrek reports (Opens in a new window) . Ascend Elements also recently received $480 million in grants from the US Department of Energy to manufacture sustainable battery materials from recycled batteries.