A report by UNEP [PDF here], the UN’s environmental body, finds that recycling rates for some of the key ingredients in EV and Hybrid cars are woefully low. The chart above shows “functional recycling rates” for 60 metals, and the rate for such key elements in the production of EV and Hybrid batteries and magnets as Lithium, Vanadium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Dysprosium, all have recycling rates of 1% or lower. Not only do many of these elements have the potential for creating ecological damage, but many (especially the so-called “rare earth elements”) are considered relatively scarce…. and not recycling exacerbates both of these issues. But, notes the report, the complex fusion of elements used in both batteries and EV magnets could present huge challenges in ever improving these rates of recycling.
Where relatively high EOL-RR [End Of Life Rates of Recycling] are derived, the impression might be given that the metals in question are being used more efficiently than those with lower rates. In reality, rates tend to reflect the degree to which materials are used in large amounts in easily recoverable applications (e. g., lead in batteries, steel in auto- mobiles), or where high value is present (e. g., gold in electronics). In contrast, where materials are used in small quantities in complex products (e. g., tantalum in electronics), or where the economic value is at present not very high, recycling is technically much more challenging.
Hat Tip: Auto123