Adrian - 2017-04-07 20:18

All you need to know about rechargeable batteries ecology

Let's get one thing straight...

The supporters of combustion engines complain that the swap of a traditional vehicle for an electric one is not the right solution, mainly because of the manufacture and recycling of batteries.

This misconception has its roots in a number of old myths that are repeated on the media that do not tend to verify their sources.

This is true that lithium is an element that needs to be extracted (from waters – mineral sources, e.g. ponds of brine, underground brine) which makes its deposits finite. Yet not many people know that – unlike in the case of petroleum – recycled lithium may be fully used anew. 

Batteries manufacturing and recycling - Tesla and Panasonic are changing the world

It is Tesla company which has its share in the revolution affecting this process. Through its cooperation with Panasonic company, Tesla built the largest manufacturing plant of lithium-ion batteries of the world in the desert of Nevada – the so-called "Tesla Gigafactory". The opponents of rechargeable batteries claim that their manufacture requires the presence of chimneys and entails pollution. In fact, the factory is wholly powered by renewable energy. It suffices to take a glance at the visualization below to notice that the entire roof of this plant has been covered by photovoltaic cells, which also concerns the windmills located in its vicinity. By the end of 2018, the factory is expected to have been working at full force, producing batteries of the total capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh) a year.

The automation of entire process, as well as the extraction of lithium on site, is supposed to entail a drastic (approx. 30%) decrease in the prices of lithium-ion batteries on a global scale, as well as to enrich the domain of research on new methods of storing energy (including the use of graphene, among others, as announced by the President of Tesla, Elon Musk).

The question of recycling has also been taken care of. It is possible to dispose of waste batteries in almost every larger store or supermarket even now. However, barely anyone knows that the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the best methods for recycling nearly 100% of metals used in lithium-ion cells of any type. After performing the separation of cells of metals subject to the process into ions, as under the critical pressure of carbon dioxide, they undergo further processing to serve the manufacture of brand-new batteries. It means that the global circulation of lithium (as well as other metals used in the process of manufacture of Li-Ion batteries) will become closed and controlled, while it will not only be possible to use it anew with the use of solar cells, but also manufacture only the number of cells that should correspond to the global demand for it. This makes for a totally new philosophy than the one related to the extraction of coal or petroleum, a thoroughly considered and calculated one in a way that should prevent repeating the mistake that first appeared about 200 years ago, along with the intensified extraction of non-renewable fossil fuels meant to power vehicles. 

But our wall sockets are coal powered...

The accusation of that batteries are charged via plugged-in cables anyway, as further related to the use of coal-powered electricity network as a source, is yet another myth that tends to be repeated very often. It needs to be underlined that it is easier to exchange the source of energy drawn from such a network into a renewable one than to replace the entirety of combustion-engine based vehicles with their electric counterparts. It seems that we need to begin the change for better ourselves.

The charging of a vehicle straight from the socket definitely leads to such a change to a degree greater than the fuelling of one's car that is equipped with a combustion engine. First of all, the efficiency of power plants of a thermal type (up to 50%) is even twice as high as the one of piston combustion engines that – even in the best case of such an engine – only reach the value of 20-30%. It means that even 70-80% of fuel poured into one's tank may be considered as wasted. On the other hand, the efficiency of an electric motor may reach even 80%, while it is additionally possible to recover some more energy released while braking. Figures speak for themselves.

Owning an electric car also stands for the possibility of choice. While it is still the most convenient option, one does not need to limit themselves to charging them from a house-based socket. It suffices to get oneself a portable solar charger that should fit into one's backpack after having been folded. For those who reside in houses, there exist a couple of options for being granted with subsidies for the purchase of photovoltaic cells, due to which a part – or even entirety of current (with battery use involved) – may be drawn from renewable energy. Many cities allow for the free use of charging stations for electric vehicles, constantly increasing in number, that are free of charge due to the fact that they are powered by the energy supplied by photovoltaic cells mounted on the roofs of car parks. New buildings are getting designed as autonomous more and more often, having their own power-generating systems built-in, while the expense of erecting a passive/autonomous house only amounts to approx. 25% more than the cost of constructing a standard house that is dependent on external electricity providers.

How much does it cost?

"How much does the home charging of an electric unicycle cost?" is a frequently asked question.

And here is where yet another pleasant surprise awaits us – the cost does not exceed EUR 0.25 per 100 km!

Did you know that when driving a car you pay much more, not only for the fuel? Click here and read our comparison - "Car vs electric unicycle".

Summary

Summing the question of ecology up, the switch to battery-powered vehicles is beneficial to our planet under each aspect there is, also having a positive influence on our wallets.

Do you agree? Let me know in the comment section below.

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