The price of white cathode materials is expected to increase as battery manufacturers change their design using cheaper materials. Among them are LFP batteries, which contain lithium, iron, and phosphorus in the cathode, leaving valuable metals such as nickel and cobalt. Kyburz has been using LFP batteries on its vehicles, and major manufacturers including Tesla are now following suit. But it is not attractive to retailers because of the low cost of production. “They’re asking for more money to get them,” Groux says.
Removing cathodes from dead batteries, cheaply, requires remodeling the batteries from the ground. This has already happened, Gaines claims, especially with lead-acid batteries, a type used to start conventional car engines. More than 95 percent of lead acid batteries are also manufactured. One reason is that manufacturers use standard configurations, which means that regenerators can take on almost any battery and install it in a unique way. Recyclables remove the main components — lead and polyurethane, a type of plastic — and separate them in jars filled with water. It’s simple: Floating plastic; lead sinking.
Lithium-ion batteries are very complex, which includes many components and devices, and is very different in their design. But even so, “you don’t have to be stupid to make a hard-to-use battery to reuse,” says Andy Abbott, a battery researcher at the University of Leicester who studies the design of recycling. There are simple ways for manufacturers of batteries it can make life easier for manufacturers of dismantlers. They can use screws instead of laser welding, for example, and choose adhesives that are not difficult to remove. But these small changes can be among the most difficult to produce, explains Jeff Spangenberger, who heads ReCell Center, because small investments add big ones to the scale. Spending an extra $ 2 on a single battery on the harness, to save $ 1 on battery construction, is not worth it for the manufacturer – as long as they are not responsible for replacement rates.
Groux encountered the problem in Kyburz recently when he undertook the development of more powerful batteries with modules. He wanted to replace closed-loaded batteries, but almost all Chinese manufacturers consulted used laser welding. However, a company like Kyburz has some advantages. Its vehicles are small, designed to travel around Swiss villages for several hours at a time, without crossing the Mojave without stopping. For the most part, the company uses one large cell that does not come in modules, so it is easy to remove them. This means that the Groux machine is capable of performing this function in a stand-alone manner.
Tesla batteries, of course, are very complex. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be made in the most obvious way and allow it to happen by itself, explains Abbott. Points to “Blade” battery, a new type of LFP battery manufactured by Chinese automaker BYD for its high-performance vehicles, as an example of progress. LFP batteries know its advantages: They are cheaper than batteries filled with cobalt and five, last longer, and usually do not cause fire. But he felt that he could not save enough energy to drive hundreds of miles — so much so that Bladeyo surprised many bystanders.
For Abbott, one of the most exciting changes in the design is that the battery pack is not broken into modules. Instead, cells are formed in rows directly inside the packet. Its cells are long and rectangular, so they form “cuts” – rather than cylindrical jelly rolls. BYD found that it could place rectangles inside the battery pack more than the cylinders, making the whole pack more powerful. Abbott has not had the opportunity to directly monitor its design, but he doubts that its design makes batteries easier to remove. Some companies, including Tesla, have stated that they want to make battery packs without modules, although cell designs vary.