Environmental potential of battery rejuvenation in climate action - Hindustan Times

Environmental potential of battery rejuvenation in climate action

Apr 18, 2024 05:07 PM IST

This article is authored by Kavinder Khurana, managing director, Tesla Power India.

Lead-acid batteries tend to lose their capacity and performance with time. As a consequence, battery refurbishment is an attempt to converse the degradation via various procedures. The Battery Insights team has predicted that the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery chain, from mining through recycling, could rise by over 30% per annum from 2022 to 2030. This is equal to approximately $400 billion which reflects a market size of 4.7 TWh.

Climate Change (Representative file image) PREMIUM
Climate Change (Representative file image)

Battery rejuvenation is the methodology that can fight environmental challenges linked with battery waste. Currently, the global market is witnessing a high demand for batteries and the dumping of old and exhausted batteries has become a pressing concern due to their harmful environmental impact. As a solution, enterprises are making an effort to extend the lifespan of existing batteries and trying to reduce the need for battery disposal. As a result, battery rejuvenation offers significant economic and environmental advantages. This process is vital in bringing down the negative effects as it reduces pollution, reduces carbon footprints, and promotes a circular economy.

The circular economy, in general, encourages activities that lead to value conservation like energy, labour, and materials. This concept when applied to the segment of lead-acid batteries, ought to shift the mindset from linear “take-make-dispose” to recycling, reusing, and rejuvenating batteries.

Surprisingly, according to a study, only 5% of lithium batteries are recycled in the world. Thus, the majority of the process focuses on battery rejuvenation that involves re-establishing the performance and capacity of weak batteries. The steps of the process follow the sequence of repairing the battery cells, often extending their lifespan and functionality significantly. The mechanical processes can aid in reducing waste and maximising the existing potential.

When batteries are finally dumped in allocated grounds, they discharge harmful chemicals that comprise lead, mercury, and cadmium into the local soil and water bodies. In return, ecosystems, and human health face repercussions along with a surge in pollution levels. In addition, visible contamination is observed in water sources, which eventually harms wildlife, posing a serious threat to human health.

As a precautionary major by the residents of the society, Global demand for Li-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries is expected to soar over the next decade, with the number of GWh required increasing from about 700 GWh in 2022 to around 4.7 TWh by 2030. The new method that is nearing mass adoption has greater benefits in comparison to traditional disposal methods. To begin with, it aids in minimising the amount of battery waste that enters landfills, easing the pressure on the environment. Next, it cuts down the consumption of non-renewable resources as pre-manufactured batteries are being recycled. Finally, it brings down the capital expenditure of the organisation as the lifespan of the existing batteries is extended.

According to BCC Research, the global market for environment-friendly batteries is anticipated to upsurge by $34.3 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.3%, by 2024. The batteries have to undergo a diagnostic test which identifies if any issues demand repairs or replacements. The process differs depending on the type and circumstance of the battery but often comprises cell balancing, voltage adjustment, and capacity restoration. This enables the batteries to power the devices again.

This showcases that the batteries have a higher shelf life if used mindfully. Thus, one can escape from repeatedly dumping batteries while conserving the resources and need for new manufacturing/ production. Consequently, it’s a win-win situation as it reduces the overall operational cost.

In addition to cost savings, battery rejuvenation offers efficiency gains. Rejuvenated batteries can recover their original performance levels, permitting them to function more efficiently and powerfully. By elevating the use of existing batteries, companies and consumers can moderate their energy consumption, leading to further cost reductions and environmental benefits.

While battery rejuvenation holds great promise, it does face certain restrictions and hindrances. One major challenge is classifying batteries that are appropriate for rejuvenation. Batteries that are severely damaged or degraded may not benefit from the process, demanding proper assessment and selection before rejuvenation attempts.

Moreover, there is a requirement for homogenous and efficient rejuvenation techniques. The usefulness of battery rejuvenation can vary subject to the technology used and the skills of the operators. Evolving standardised protocols and training programmes for battery rejuvenation will be fundamental to confirming consistent and reliable results.

Innovations in battery rejuvenation technology are endlessly evolving to address the challenges faced in the field. Researchers and companies are discovering various techniques, such as advanced diagnostic tools and dedicated rejuvenation processes, to enrich the effectiveness and efficiency of battery rejuvenation.

For instance, progressions in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning have directed the improvement of intelligent diagnostic systems that can perfectly assess battery conditions and determine the possibility of rejuvenation. Additionally, novel rejuvenation processes, comprising chemical treatments and electrochemical methods, are being examined to further expand the rejuvenation outcomes.

By extending the life of batteries through rejuvenation, we can make the most of their value and add to a more sustainable and resource-efficient society. While challenges and restrictions exist, partial innovations and advancements in rejuvenation technology hold out hope for a greener future.

This article is authored by Kavinder Khurana, managing director, Tesla Power India.

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