Beware of power battery "scrap tide" caused by "secondary pollution

Release time:

2017-09-27 16:59

According to the prediction of industry research institutions, China's power battery will usher in a "scrap tide", and the amount of scrap will exceed 248000 tons by 2020, which is about 20 times the amount of scrap in 2016.

Such a large-scale "scrap tide" is facing a severe recycling situation. How to safely recycle and environmentally friendly treatment, strengthen the standardized recycling of waste power batteries, and avoid the "catastrophic" environmental consequences caused by such new solid waste has become a "world-class problem" that the industry is generally concerned about ".

Experts suggest that it is appropriate to establish and improve the recycling system of waste power batteries as soon as possible, rely on the backbone enterprises in the industry, set up a national engineering research center to break the technical bottleneck, establish a technical support system, and promote the green and sustainable development of the new energy vehicle industry chain.

 3 to 4 years ushered in the "scrap tide"

In recent years, under the background of increasingly serious environmental problems and the development consensus of energy diversification strategy, many governments have increased their support for the new energy vehicle industry, and the global new energy vehicle industry has entered a stage of rapid development.

警惕动力电池“报废潮”引发“二次污染

Zhao Naiyu/Painting

 

According to industry insiders, the growth of domestic new energy vehicles is still mainly concentrated in areas where government procurement has greater decision-making power, such as logistics vehicles, sanitation vehicles, official vehicles and other public areas, but private consumers' acceptance of new energy vehicles is gradually increasing.

Tang Hongwei, general manager of Changsha pilot Express Technology Co., Ltd., which is engaged in the operation of new energy sharing vehicles, believes that with the refinement of the state subsidy policy and the gradual improvement of charging facilities, the growth of the domestic new energy vehicle market will gradually shift from the public sector to the private sector, and the household new energy passenger vehicle market will enter a period of rapid growth.

According to the forecast of the lithium battery Research Institute of high industry, industry and research, the production and sales of new energy vehicles in China will maintain rapid growth in the next five years, with an annual compound growth rate of more than 30%.

The new energy vehicle market has shown explosive growth, which directly drives the rapid growth of the scale of power batteries. In 2015, the output value of China's power battery was 38 billion yuan, up 262 percent year-on-year, and the output value was close to that of digital lithium battery. In 2016, the output value of China's power battery was 64.5 billion yuan, surpassing the scale of traditional digital lithium batteries for the first time, and becoming the largest area in the consumption structure of lithium batteries.

According to the forecast of the Lithium Battery Research Institute of High-tech Industry and Research, with the introduction of a new round of promotion policies, as well as the impact of the improvement of lithium battery production technology and cost reduction in the future, the demand for power batteries for new energy vehicles will grow at a high speed in the next five years. The output of power batteries for automobiles in China will be 30.8GWh in 2016, and the output of power lithium batteries for automobiles in China is expected to reach 141GWh in 2020.

Li Changdong, chairman of Hunan Bangpu Cycle Technology Co., Ltd., told the reporter of Economic Information Daily that the current 3000-cycle lithium iron phosphate battery life can reach about 8 years, but the battery life will be shorter under actual working conditions, and it can be used on average. 5 years. Due to the late development of ternary power battery technology, the maturity is not as good as that of lithium iron phosphate battery, and the service life is relatively short, with an average life of 4 years under working conditions.

"The first batch of power batteries loaded in 2012-2014 will be decommissioned on a large scale around 2018. In the next 3 to 4 years, there will be a 'scrappage tide' for power lithium batteries '." Li Changdong said.

According to the prediction of the Lithium Battery Research Institute of High Industry, Industry and Research, with the continuous growth of the electric vehicle market, it is expected that the scrap of power batteries will also show a rapid growth trend. The scrap volume of power batteries in 2016 is about 12000 tons, and the scrap volume of power batteries in China will reach 248000 tons by 2020.

Recycling and recycling a challenge

Some experts believe that from the perspective of environmental governance and resource utilization, the recovery and recycling of waste power batteries will become an important part of the new energy vehicle industry.

Industry insiders, the existing power battery capacity, lithium iron phosphate battery accounted for the mainstream. It is worth noting that, driven by the Tesla boom, some domestic enterprises have also explored the use of ternary materials such as NCM (nickel cobalt manganese) and NCA (nickel cobalt aluminum) for power batteries. Starting from 2014, the domestic three-way power battery production line for passenger cars has been put into production.

Cao Hongbin, a researcher at the Institute of Process Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the reporter of the Economic Information Daily that before 2013, there were serious problems in the domestic lead-acid battery recycling industry. Individuals and small workshops that lacked qualifications illegally recycled lead-acid batteries and directly discharged waste acid. The environment has caused serious pollution and the lessons are very heavy.

Industry insiders generally believe that although the power batteries for new energy vehicles mainly use relatively environmentally friendly lithium batteries, which are less polluting than lead-acid batteries, if they are improperly recycled and disposed of, they are very likely to repeat the mistakes of lead-acid batteries that year. Cause serious pollution. In view of the power battery "scrap tide" is coming, the possible environmental pollution must not be taken lightly.

"Waste power batteries contain heavy metals such as nickel, cobalt, and manganese. Electrolytes and fluorine-containing organics are also polluted; in addition, because waste power batteries still contain high pressures ranging from 300-1000V, if they are recycled, disassembled, and treated Improper operation in the process may cause various problems such as fire and explosion, heavy metal pollution, and organic waste gas emissions." Cao Hongbin said.

"Take lithium hexafluorophosphate in the power battery electrolyte as an example, this solute is easily hydrolyzed in the air environment to produce phosphorus pentafluoride, hydrogen fluoride and other harmful substances, which have a strong corrosive effect on the human body, animals and plants, so special attention should be paid to the treatment of solvents and lithium hexafluorophosphate. A little carelessness, it is very likely to bring 'secondary pollution', or even catastrophic consequences." Li Changdong said.

Although pollution is like the "sword of Damocles" hanging over the head, on the other hand, waste vehicle power batteries are valuable "urban minerals". If used properly, they can not only reduce environmental pollution, but also "turn waste into treasure" and avoid waste of resources.

Xu Shengming, a researcher at the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology of Tsinghua University, said that the raw materials such as cobalt, nickel, and lithium needed for power batteries are very important strategic resources. At present, 80% of my country's cobalt and 70% of lithium and nickel resources are dependent on imports.

"China's cobalt resources are relatively poor, the production of cobalt is less than a few thousand tons, but the use of cobalt reaches tens of thousands of tons, so basically rely on imports from countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, but the political situation in these countries is not very good. The new energy vehicle industry is developing rapidly and cobalt has been in short supply." Xu Shengming said.

Industry insiders believe that although my country does not have cobalt resources, it imports a large amount of cobalt ore every year, and there is a large domestic reserve that can be used, and 70% of the overall domestic cobalt holdings are concentrated in the field of battery production. If these cobalt resources can be recycled well, the dependence on foreign imports can be greatly reduced, which is conducive to the healthy development of the new energy automobile industry.

"The content grade of lithium, nickel and cobalt in ore is very low, such as nickel in laterite nickel is only 0.5; Cobalt in cobalt oxide ore is only 0.2 percent; Lithium in brine is only 0.02 percent; However, the total amount of nickel + cobalt + manganese in waste ternary power batteries is 20%, that in waste lithium batteries is 3%, and that in waste nickel-cobalt power batteries is 40%, rare earth is about 6%, and the grade of valuable metal in waste batteries is 40-100 times that of raw ore." Professor Dai Xi of the School of Metallurgy and Environment of Central South University said.

"The general service life of power lithium-ion batteries is about 8 years, but when the capacity of power lithium batteries for vehicles decays below 80%, they will be discarded, and the actual use time is about 3-6 years. Before recovering the materials or energy of these discarded power lithium batteries for vehicles, they can also be used for grid energy storage or as low-level power sources to establish a secondary utilization system of battery cascades and give full play to the social and economic benefits of power lithium batteries." Xu Shengming said.

 Three major bottlenecks need to be solved

Although the importance of recycling of waste power batteries has reached a consensus in the industry, the recycling market is still in its infancy. Whether it is policies and regulations, process technology or recycling system, it is urgent to further strengthen research and regulation.

First of all, the supporting and binding force of policies and regulations is not enough. According to industry insiders, my country has formulated the "Hazardous Waste Pollution Prevention and Control Technical Policy" and the "Waste Battery Pollution Prevention and Control Technical Policy". In 2016, the National Development and Reform Commission took the lead in formulating the "New Energy Vehicle Power Battery Recycling and Utilization Technical Policy". In 2017, the National Standards Committee issued The national standard "Technical Specifications for Recycling and Dismantling of Vehicle Power Batteries". These policies and technical standards are all guiding or recommended guidance documents, which have a reference and guiding role for key enterprises operating norms, but do not have any binding effect on illegal traders.

Second, recycling technology lags behind. The whole process of recycling and processing of waste power lithium batteries includes dozens of complex steps such as discharge, disassembly, crushing, sorting, impurity removal, element synthesis, etc., involving multiple interdisciplinary disciplines such as physics, chemistry, materials, and engineering, and the technology is complex and lengthy. At present, many developed countries around the world, including Germany, the United States, and Japan, are actively supporting and promoting the engineering research and development of national common key technologies in this field. However, China lags behind its international counterparts in terms of power battery recycling and processing technology.

Third, the recycling network system is not perfect. According to the current policy requirements of my country's automotive power battery recycling, the power battery recycling network should be the responsibility of the automobile manufacturer, but the automobile manufacturer in my country often shifts the responsibility to the battery supplier, and the battery manufacturer does not have a national recycling network. Coupled with the high cost of network construction, the current national recycling market is extremely irregular, and the overall situation is in a disorderly state of "no matter there is a license or no license, the higher price.

In response to the above problems, experts suggest that we should guide the establishment of a transparent and unobstructed waste power battery recycling network, change the existing "paid" commercial recycling model, and adopt the "fee-based" treatment method in recycling and processing in Japan and other countries, so as to benefit Long-term development. At the same time, we should make full use of the research and development forces of universities and enterprises, increase the research on recycling technology, and be in line with international standards.

First, promote the establishment of a benign recycling system that can be monitored throughout the process. Starting from the power manufacturing stage, the design is carried out. With the help of the Internet and the Internet of Things, the whole process of power battery manufacturing, circulation and recycling is monitored to avoid partial dismantling of small vendors, realize complete recycling of each group of power batteries, and establish a benchmark to promote it to parallel recycling fields.

Second, explore the echelon utilization technology of power battery. Considering the high residual power contained in the power battery can be used, it is necessary to further explore how to realize the echelon utilization of the power battery safely and efficiently.

Third, explore more efficient and clean production technology. In the dismantling technology to explore how to achieve efficient short-range classification; in the metallurgical technology to explore the directional cycle-oriented metallurgical technology; in the clean technology in-depth research and development of cleaner metallurgical technology, to avoid "secondary pollution".

To this end, the relevant state departments may wish to support the backbone enterprises in the field of power battery recycling in terms of funds, policies, and intellectual resources. Scientific research institutes should jointly establish a national engineering research and development center for power battery recycling as soon as possible.

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