Is an electric car really an environmentally friendly choice? A Green turn or a turn to worse?

A faulty battery threatens to send more and more brand new electric cars to their premature deaths. For many models, repairing or replacing the battery after even a minor accident is simply an impossible task [watch the video here!].
That is why piles of batteries separated from unrepairable electric cars are growing rapidly in various parts of Europe, Reuters news agency reports. At the same time, the gap between recoverable battery materials and recycling options is widening even further.

Electric cars are bought in the name of sustainability, but it’s not very sustainable if the battery pack has to be thrown away after even a minor crash, says research director Matthew Avery.
For example, Synetiq, Britain’s largest vehicle recycling company, notes that the number of electric cars removed from service as unfit has increased significantly over the year. Operations director Michael Hill says the number of cars has grown from a dozen every few days to 20 a day.
“We’ve seen a big change – and that applies to all car manufacturers,” he says.

There is currently no battery recycling system in the UK. Therefore, Synetiq must remove batteries from electric cars and store them in insulated containers.
However, Hill estimates that up to 95 percent of the damaged battery cells would be in fully usable condition and recyclable.

Economic factors primarily have an impact. Replacing a damaged battery can, for example, prove to be a loss-making measure in the eyes of insurance companies.
Worth tens of thousands, the battery is the most expensive part of the car and can account for half of the retail price of an electric car. Add in the labor cost of battery replacement and the equation hits a pain point.

Some car manufacturers have taken up the challenge of repairing batteries. Ford and GM, for example, claim to have already produced battery packs that are easier to repair.
On the other hand, with Tesla, for example, the situation is the opposite. Many experts have condemned, for example, the company’s favorite Model Y battery, which is practically impossible to repair.
The cells of the type 4680 battery pack placed in the Model Y structures manufactured at the Texas factory are glued together. Sandy Munro, an experienced industrial engineer, denounces replacing and repairing a Model Y battery as an “impossible task.”
The battery pack put into Tesla structures goes straight to the waste mill, he sighs.

The list compiled by Reuters includes, in addition to low-mileage Teslas, electric cars produced by, for example, Nissan, Hyundai, Stellantis, BMW and Renault.
The reasons are partly related to the aforementioned new production methods. They may reduce the production costs of the car, but on the other hand, they threaten to transfer the battery risk to the shoulders of the owner and the insurance company.
Bankrate, an online financial news service, reports that American insurance companies are aware that “even minor damage can result in up to $15,000 in battery replacement costs.”
For example, in the US, the monthly insurance premium for an electric car is on average $206, or almost a third more than for a car with an internal combustion engine.
Tesla has not publicly commented on redemption decisions made by insurance companies. However, the company’s CEO Elon Musk recently criticized the monthly insurance premiums for some Teslas as “absurdly high.”

Experts who monitor the insurance and auto industries predict that premiums will continue to rise if the battery repairability problem cannot be solved.
Otherwise, the number of electric cars that have been involved in accidents and are out of service threatens to continue to grow.
The repairability of batteries is absolutely a key criterion in the future, because the number of such cases will only increase, says Christoph Lauterwasser, Director of the Allianz Group Technology Centre.
Insurance companies are also interested in usage data collected from the life cycle of batteries, which car manufacturers prefer to keep private. Lauterwasser says he’s seen battery packs that were slightly damaged on top, but the cells appeared to be undamaged.
If there was no more detailed information, cars with batteries should have been placed in folder X.
He also highlights the environmental dimension. According to him, the production process of electric car batteries produces significantly more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the production of models with internal combustion engines.
Therefore, electric cars must remain in traffic long enough for the emission-free kilometres they drive to compensate for the emissions generated during production.
If the electric car is thrown away immediately, the advantage of emission-free driving kilometres disappears.

Original article in Estonian language

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