4 June 2023

Coming EV battery pile-up requires action sooner rather than later

| Ian Bushnell
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Tesla Model S at a charging station

A Tesla Model S charging at Majura Park. What will happen to its battery at end-of-life? Photo: James Coleman.

The ACT’s environmentally aware – and wealthy – motorists are leading the way towards zero-emissions transport, embracing electric vehicles and the clean-driving benefits they offer.

What’s often overlooked is what happens to the batteries, which are increasing in size and power, when their job is done.

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New research from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) suggests 30,000 tonnes of EV batteries will reach their end-of-life in Australia as soon as 2030, and this number is forecast to surge to 360,000 tonnes by 2040 and 1.6 million tonnes by 2050.

That’s a lot of batteries that could end up in landfill with the threat of toxic chemicals leaching into the soil and waterways.

There is also the fire risk. A household lithium battery sparked the disastrous blaze at the Hume recycling facility. With the projected number of vehicle batteries entering the waste stream, that risk will only increase.

Like all new industries, developing systems to manage the downsides seems to take a while.

In fact, for many, we have sleepwalked into the future and worried about the consequences and the clean-up afterwards.

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC), the government-backed body set up to plan for battery waste in Australia, doesn’t want that to happen and is calling for action now.

The hope is that, eventually, a circular economy can be established, and batteries can be recycled and reused. The CSIRO believes this has the potential to be a $30 billion industry by 2036.

But that road is not necessarily easy – look at the problems with current waste management and recycling goals.

The ACT Government advises that EV batteries should be recycled and transported by specialist recyclers, and owners should discuss safe disposal options with their auto electrician or dealership.

Obviously, a more substantial and structured system will need to be in place when EVs become the norm, not the novel.

Companies are recycling batteries in Australia to recover lithium, cobalt and nickel, all of which can be reused in making new batteries.

But only about 6 per cent of batteries are dealt with this way, according to ActewAGL.

The car-makers and battery manufacturers who stand to make fortunes from the transport revolution will need to be part of the solution and accept their responsibilities, although it seems few have any concrete plans yet for dealing with the growing challenge.

Self-regulation has rarely worked anyway and government will have to ensure that in the process of cutting emissions, we don’t create another environmental monster.

A National Battery Strategy being developed by the federal Department of Industry, Science and Resources is due for release later this year. It will need to set clear guideposts for industry.

The introduction of more stringent fuel efficiency standards will pave the way for more EV brands and makes with batteries offering more and more range to enter the Australian market, reducing prices and offering more choice to meet the demand that is already there.

The transport system is transitioning and nothing will hold that back.

But the issues of battery provenance and disposal will need to be addressed.

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The sceptics will use the environmental challenges of EVs – like those of solar panels – to try to debunk the need to move away from the internal combustion engine.

But these are overwhelmed by the global oil and petrochemical industry’s pollution record and its climate-changing emissions.

The waste issue is a big one. We just need to tackle it front on.

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Heres a solution, dump the stupid idea of EVs and stick with ICEs.

Problem solved……

The second hand market for ICEs will boom. ICE is a superior technology, EVs limit your freedom of movement ( by design), cost a fortune to buy ( plenty of money made by a few), and are dull to drive beyond the acceleration.

On the up side, its the worlds biggest iphone charger…..

It’s interesting that while this article highlights a real issue about battery waste, it makes it seem inevitable that the whole of the transport industry will convert to EVs. Really?? Not if EVs continue to be expensive to purchase and not as user friendly (limited range, long charging times) compared with petrol powered vehicles.

I have yet to see the real price of EVs drop to anywhere near what they should be for their respective size. It seems rather pointed that when I see a drive review of an EV, it is never a comparison with other vehicles in the same class. Wonder why?

Bob the impala2:06 pm 06 Jun 23

goggles13, have ICE vehicles improved in any respect in your lifetime?

Are you aware of any new features brought from top-of-line vehicles to lower price points in any of the last dozen decades (or all of them)?

@bob, yes there are heaps of examples of new features filtering down from high end vehicles to lower priced cars. Airbags, independent suspension, etc, etc. Even my Commodore inherited better suspension for higher priced HSV models 10 years ago

Bob the impala9:13 pm 07 Jun 23

Wonderful goggles13. So, why do you appear to imagine that EVs will get no cheaper, no improvements will be made to capability, no second-hand market will eventuate? Those are implications of your first post, that nothing will change whereas you admit it always has changed. Are you merely impatient?

@bob EVs have been around for quite a while now and I haven’t seen any real price drop for any of the new models, which I’m sure is where people will start to shop. No different to any other consumer good, you look at new models first, then move onto second hand models if you can’t afford new. It’s fair to say that any new EVs is unaffordable for most or at least their price doesn’t compare well with equivalent fossil fueled vehicles. BTW, my point still stands. I have yet to see any motoring publication do a comparison between an EV and an equivalent fossil fueled vehicle. As a result, it’s extraordinarily difficult to justify why anyone should buy an EV. Some will want to be economically responsible and not keeping up with the latest fad at any cost.

I don’t know what EVs you’re looking at but prices have most definitely reduced significantly in the last 10 years, whilst the average range has almost tripled.

I think what you may have been seeing is that a lot of the specific newer models being made have been aimed at the premium or luxury end of the market, rather than cheaper family cars. Thus we see a lot of expensive EVs.

You’re right in general that they are still too expensive for most people to consider but that will change rapidly as production scale, model range and the constant technology changes we see increase in coming years.

Bob the impala9:15 am 08 Jun 23

goggles13, I do not speak for motoring magazines so you had better write to them. They might reply along the lines of “What’s the point?” given one is superseding the other rather than being equal competitors in the long run.

For the rest, I’ll hand you back to chewy14’s answer.

It’s an interesting question as to why there’s very few direct comparisons between EV and ICE models, but I suspect it’s because comparisons are typically to give potential buyers information to choose between either or for one to act as a benchmark. In the case of ICE vs EV, it’s more about comparing technologies rather than features, which may not be relevant to many unless you’re actively considering to make the leap. There are many review of EV vs EV, which goes to support my supposition.

With respect to prices not dropping, I bought a Tesla Model 3 in 2020, and 3 months after that the model dropped $6K with the early introduction of the 2021 model, which also offered new features which I’d given up my first child for (umm, perhaps not really, but hey…). You can imagine how happy I was, but that’s the risk as an early adopter. In the next couple of years we saw the MG, BYD and soon the Volvo EX30 being released – all in the $50K-$60K range (~$20K cheaper than the cheapest Tesla). More new brands and models will be released over the next 12 months.

But that’s still a lot of money – sure. Addressing the elephant in the room, the battery pack is the main cost component in every EV, and since mainstream introduction of the EV (2019?) there has already been changes in battery chemistry which has seen improvement in stability, efficiency and (reduced) cost. The LFP battery appearing in many cheaper EVs is the latest, with CATL’s next-gen M3P battery hitting production now. Meanwhile other chemistries are being investigated, including one which uses salt – one of the most common elements on earth. And I haven’t yet mentioned solid state or hydrogen technologies.

So as battery technology develops over coming years, cost should reduce. And we’re really only 4 or so years in on this transition, so imagine what options and infrastructure will be available by 2030. And the transition is inevitable – just look up the definition for “non-renewable resource”.

HiddenDragon8:06 pm 05 Jun 23

Unless the West is certain that absolutely all of the minerals required for current and likely future EV batteries can be obtained in sufficient quantities from friendly and/or genuinely neutral countries, there would be powerful security reasons for developing recycling processes which maximise the re-use of battery components.

Full, or close to it, recycling might also help to forestall the development of breakaway groups of tyre deflating fundamentalists who would turn their attention to the social and environmental costs of producing EV batteries and thus (horror of horrors) trouble the expensively purchased virtuous sleep of EV owners –


I thought EVs were 100% environmentally friendly. Guess not lol

Local manufacturing and recycling of EV batteries is essential. Canberra bureacrats don’t like industry-it is too hard to manage (management requires consulatants preferably one of the big 4 or possibly 3 for a little while to create policy and then manage it). However, creating industry and employment solves the housing and over development and density issue as locating a factory/ employment is ideal to set up new satelite garden city suburbs, enabling development of cheap housing for workers and solves the productivity issue with new homes built close to factories that produce goods rather than lame services. We use to be able to do industry and new developments before the developers, investors and landlords started calling all the shots. It is no surprise how many properties pollies and fat cat public servants own and have as AirBnB side hustles.

Let’s just clarify a few matters …
The current batteries that are being installed in EV’s will reach approx 80% of their capacity after approx 350,000+ km’s … approx 23 years for the average traveller. They will definitely outlast the car itself.
After those 23 years the 80% capacity is more than sufficient for re-purposing for solar power storage … let’s say another 10 tears.
Bottom line after 33 Years of usage the batteries will need to be recycled.
There is an ever growing industry in recycling solar panels, batteries, etc
Bottom line … what are the concerns that this writer has ???

GrumpyGrandpa3:22 pm 05 Jun 23

Hello Robz,
I’ve attached an article from the Uni of SA that says we already have issue with the disposal of dead solar panels. It also states that there may need to be an upfront levy, to help cover the cost of disposal/ recycling.

You would have to think that “recyling” of EV batteries would be a lot more costly than solar panels , particularly given the added risk of runaway fires. Are you up for an EV battery recycling levy? How much extra do you think EV purchasers would be prepared to pay?

As for EV batteries being able to repurposed and then used for 10 years worth of solar storage making a total life cycle of 33 years, with respect, I think most people would be falling off their seats in laughter.

Just out of interest, we own an ICE car that is 23 years old. I’ve had no need to replace the engine, although I have had to replace a few batteries (and even those little suckers aren’t cheap).


I find it difficult to believe the average person drives 15,000ks a year.

HI Grumpy … thank you for your reply.
I could also link you to many articles that confirm my post, especially re battery and solar panel recycling, which is in its infancy as were oil disposal points when ICE vehicles introduced themselves to the masses.
I acknowledge there is a growing bandwagon of uneducated ICE vehicle drivers that seem threatened by the new technology, spreading disinformation by the battery load.
For instance, the case of EV’s spontaneously catching fire. A review recently by an insurance group indicated the following … per 100,000 vehicles; hybrids have 3500 instances, ICE vehicles 1500, EV’s 25, ie there is a 60 time chance of an ICE vehicle catching fire then an EV. But of course every time a Tesla catches fire the oil company driven media publish a headline.
It’s all fine if you don’t want to familiarise yourself and adopt the EV technology (which is not new btw). The technology might be a bit too difficult for some, especially die hard ICE vehicle revheads.

GrumpyGrandpa6:23 pm 07 Jun 23

Hello again Robz,

While I drive a 23 year old ICE, I’m not a rusted-on ICE fanatic.
One of the issues that concerns me with the ICE, is fuel security and our reliance on imported fuel.

I’d be very happy to move on from the ICE, if I thought there was a viable replacement

My concern with our current BEVs is that their manufacturing carbon cost is higher and they on minerals that are in short supply. To me, environmentally, a new BEV doesn’t make sense, while my ICE is still going well.

I think our current BEV technology will go the way of the BETA video tape. There is a lot of research going on into solid state batteries etc and I wouldn’t like to be an owner when that happens.

I’m not sure how long we’ll have wait for newer BEV technology? Perhaps Hydrogen might end up being the next fuel source?

Leave this for the tree huggers to fix, I guess.

Capital Retro8:37 am 05 Jun 23

By the end of the decade, the International Energy Agency estimates there will be between 148 million and 230 million battery-powered vehicles on the road worldwide, accounting for up to 12 percent of the global automotive fleet.

During an electric vehicle battery fire, toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide are released. Both are fatal to humans.

Maybe a pre-paid disposal fee needs to be added to the purchase price? Used EV batteries can’t be bulk stored safely before they are recycled so their storage needs lots of space, like an elephant with Diarrhoea.

“Won’t hold my breath though, you’re known for a selective memory and repeating the same discredited points ad nauseum”

You lasted 3 days this time, congrats.

Capital Retro12:38 pm 05 Jun 23

And your infallible, peer reviewed solution is?

Your negative comments are like the elephant’s problem.

“Your negative comments are like the elephant’s problem.”

The fact that I think you probably wrote this seriously is funny by itself.

Do you show the same level of concern for the toxic gases that spew out the back of an ICE powered vehicle day in, day out?

Capital Retro9:32 am 07 Jun 23

I’ve been exposed to that for 80 years JS9 and I and myself and everyone I know have not suffered any ill-effects from it.

As always, anecdotal evidence from a single person and a handful of buddies is clearly far more valid than ample amounts of scientific, peer reviewed research from a range of locations across the world over many decades showing the significant impact on human health from the toxic gases contained in exhaust fumes from ICE vehicles.

All that wasted brainpower of some of the world’s most eminent academics hey.

The funny part of it all – you actually truly believe that.

“I’ve been exposed to that for 80 years JS9 and I and myself and everyone I know have not suffered any ill-effects from it.”

Bahahaha, this is next level ignorance.

Numerous research studies have examined and quantified the impacts of vehicle exhaust gases over decades. It’s also the reason that regulations have consistently moved to stricter standards for vehicle emissions ever since ICE vehicles were invented.


“Speaking at today’s Vehicle Pollution Forum, Melbourne Climate Futures Academy fellows Ms Clare Walter and Dr Kelvin Say said the latest research shows that vehicle emissions in Australia may cause:

11,105 premature deaths in adults per year;
12,210 cardiovascular hospitalisations per year;
6,840 respiratory hospitalisations per year;
66,000 active asthma cases per year.”

Yeah, no impacts at all hey…..

Capital Retro12:06 pm 07 Jun 23

You forgot that inconvenient qualification “may cause”.

No one who can think for themselves believes all these expert peer reviewed research studies anymore because they are all duds, especially the global warming ones.

I’m proud to be one of the “next level ignorants” (whatever that means) and if you haven’t realised it yet it’s going to be “fossil fuels forever”.

I’m pretty sure there were some fairly well known events in the 1940s that clearly showed the deadly impact noxious gas and other pollutants from the byproducts of combustion engines have on the human body.

There is no debate to be had – it is proven fact that they hurt and kill people. It is only a question of how many, not if.

Doolally is the only apt description of your opinion on this matter.

Capital Retro1:12 pm 07 Jun 23

“There is no debate to be had”. Sounds a lot like “the science is settled” which is usual response from you virtue signalers.

The word “doolally” was one I never heard before so I checked the meaning which is “temporarily deranged or feeble-minded”. This is not me – I have always stood by what I don’t believe in.

Capital Retro,
To use your own argument, you and no one you know has suffered any ill effects from an EV fire, so therefore they are perfectly safe and have no effect on people.

This isn’t remotely a question that needs answering, the impacts of air pollution caused by ICE vehicle emissions have been shown repeatedly in numerous studies over decades. The qualifying “may” provided is because they are providing an estimate of quantity of the impact, not a question of there possibly being no impact. The impact “may” actually be worse as well, which is exactly what the newer studies are showing, that previous predictions have underestimated the impact.


You being proud of not understanding an issue is a pretty apt description of your position.

I definitely agree with your last comment CR, I would never have described you as temporarily deranged either.

Most definitions I have seen of doolally suggest it is a permanent state of mind, rather than temporary as the definition you read suggests. If only it was the latter, it would have been a compliment.

There is no science to be settled or debate to be had. ICE vehicles exhaust fumes include a range toxic gases, that in sufficient concentration can cause serious health impacts and/or kill people.

Or are you seriously going to argue that what happened in 1942 in Europe, using those exact byproducts of an ICE engine is also up for debate?

Bob the impala4:28 pm 07 Jun 23

Given Capital Retro thinks all research is dud, we can look forward to his immediate cessation of posting here, for the computer on which he miscomposes would not exist without quantum research, and he could never admit uncertainty.

“The ACT’s environmentally unaware – and wealthy – motorists” Fixed it

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