How To Recycle Vehicle Batteries

Vehicle battery recycling graphicRecycling scrap vehicle batteries enable manufacturers to reuse parts and components to make new batteries and related products. Metals used in the manufacturing of batteries tend to be expensive, and by using recycled items, car companies are able to cut back on expenses, and these are passed over to the buying public.

How Recycling Works

The recycling process starts when the batteries are collected and sorted according to the chemical composition. Whether it is lithium‑ion, nickel-metal-hydride or nickel-cadmium or lead acid, they are placed in specially designed boxes, sacks or drums. The stage, combustible materials like insulation and plastics are removed using a thermal oxidiser. Next, the polluting particles are removed by a scrubber, so there’s no danger when they are released into the atmosphere.

The process leaves the cells clean with only the metal content inside. The cells are subsequently cut into small parts and heated until the metal melts. Non metallic substances burn up, and the remaining black slag is removed, while the alloys eventually settle and skimmed off.

Because cadmium is light, it vaporises during the process, and the result is cadmium that’s 99.5% pure. Some recycling centres don’t separate the metallic components and just put the liquid metals into what is known as the “the pig”. These are sent to plants specialising in metal recovery and used to produce iron, chromium or nickel.

Lithium-based car batteries are frozen with liquid nitrogen, after which the lithium is crushed, shredded and dissolved so the material becomes non-reactive.

Are All Car Batteries Recyclable?

The batteries used for hybrids, electric and regular cars can all be recycled. Whether the car uses the old lead-acid batteries or the lithium-ion ones like those on cell phones and laptops, they’re both recyclable. Even with the old batteries, up to 96% of the material can be recovered, recharged and used again.
The same thing can be said for the new breed of hybrid cars, as the batteries are recycled in a similar manner.

If the vehicle uses lithium-ion batteries, they will still have around 80% charge remaining even if they aren’t suitable for driving anymore. What this means is that before they end up in the recycling centre, they’re used for propping up the grid.

If the lithium battery is ready for the recycling centre, they’ll be disposed of in two ways. If there is no charge remaining, the unit will be shredded so components like steel and copper can be identified quickly. If there is still charge left, the battery is frozen and crushed to pieces. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the battery, so there’s no reaction even when the battery is smashed. It’s very important that the nitrogen is used because ordinary ice and other freezing methods cannot guarantee safety.
Once the battery is smashed, the recycling process can begin, and the metals are sorted out. The time it takes to recycle car batteries varies. However, and depends on the condition of the material, the facility and what the end purpose is.

Video On Battery Recycling.

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