Journal of Circular Economy

An applied scholarly journal on circular economy

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Existing and Upcoming Challenges for Extending Electric Vehicle Battery Lifetime Through 2nd Life Applications

Fride Vullum-Bruer, Olav Galteland, Margaux Gouis, Nina McDougall, Anna Tenhunen- Lunkka

Abstract

Climate-neutrality targets and clean energy transition rapidly drive the increasing demand for batteries, making the market increasingly strategic at a global scale. Material efficiency, prolonging lifetime and circular economy are seen as key strategies to secure supply to critical raw materials. The European Commission sees that storing energy allows flexibility to adjust demand and supply, which is key to increase renewable energy production and utilisation, energy efficiency and security. Batteries are urgently needed to meet the EU's objectives on climate neutrality, replacing fossil fuel dependency and increase use of renewable energy. The utilisation of end-of-life electric vehicle batteries in 2nd life applications is currently a poorly exploited field with limited legislative support in the EU. There is untapped potential with 2nd life applications and implementing higher circular business models prior to recycling may help reach several of EU’s key strategic targets. Although reusing electric vehicle batteries will lead to nearly exclusively positive impacts, there are many challenges for successful scale up. The current work presents the findings of a thorough literature review on existing technology for reuse and repurposing, identified different circular business models, and an overview of the relevant legislative landscape in the EU, Norway and Finland. Interviews have been conducted to understand how various stakeholder groups perceive the possibilities within this business segment and what they see as the main barriers for implementation of 2nd life batteries. In total, 10 challenges and barriers were identified in four different categories: technical, legislative, eco-design, and safety/reliability. Technical challenges are related to restricted access to historical data, lack of standardization in battery design, and rapid development of the battery technology. Safety/reliability are hampered by limited standards and legislation as well as being affected by the technical challenges. Although new standards are under development and the new EU Battery Regulation will address some of the identified challenges, it will take time before these changes becomes effective. Additionally, the EU Battery Regulation prioritizes material recycling of batteries over activities aimed at extending their lifespan in a circular manner, as it mandates a minimum proportion of materials in new batteries to be sourced from recycled materials.

Keywords

Electric Vehicle Battery, Energy Storage, Stationary Energy Storage, Circular Economy, Reuse, Repurposing, Second Life, Legislation

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