China aims to have 5 million electric cars on its roads by 2020. Source: Pixabay

Discarded batteries from China’s EV craze bring about new opportunities

PILES of exhausted batteries from the surge of electric vehicles hitting Chinese roads could provide a wave of lucrative waste for local recycling plants.

State-owned Shanghai Jinqiao Group, along with Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium and GEM Co. Ltd., are investing in battery recycling facilities to profit from the impending battery boom.

Shanghai Jinqiao Group has secured licenses and is undergoing upgrades to process the fast-growing piles of battery waste, reported Reuters.

Manager at the facility Li Yingzhe told the newswire that he expects there to be lots of growth in the market in the future.

The ambitions of China’s recycling companies come amid a government drive to eventually phase out gas-fuelled vehicles and an announcement on Monday that electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla will build a manufacturing plant for its cars in Shanghai.

A worker assembles an e-Golf electric car at the new production line of the Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory in Dresden, Germany, on March 30, 2017. Source: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Sales of electric vehicles in China reached 507,000 in 2016, up 53 percent over the previous year, according to Reuters, led by companies such as BYD and Geely.

The government is targeting sales of 2 million a year by 2020 and another seven million across the next five years, amounting to a fifth of total car production by 2025.

According to the International Energy Agency, China accounted for more than 40 percent of global electric car sales in 2016, followed by the European Union and the United States.

Although lithium batteries are not yet considered hazardous waste, the exponential growth of electric vehicles in China could cause huge waste problems as the batteries typically contain cobalt and nickel, as well as toxic residues, that could end up in waterways and the soil if not handled properly.

But this also proves to be a significant opportunity with the China Automobile Innovation Centre, an industry think tank, estimates the recycling market could be worth CNY31 billion (US$4.68 billion) by 2023.