If you buy an EV then the batteries last for a certain amount of years. But what happens after that? Are they recycled 100%?

Are the car companies like Tesla collecting those batteries to recycle?

If they are not recycled then how big an environmental problem are they?


2 Answers 2


Consider status quo ante with plain old lead-acid car batteries.

Virtually all car batteries are already recycled, over 99%. The lead is exceedingly easy to recycle. The sulfuric acid is pretty easy too. The plastic is probably the hardest but it's of known composition. Batteries are heavy, and they have a $5-15 core charge at the store, so most DIYers recycle their batteries to get the core charge back. If you just happen to have a loose one, they are stupidly easy to recycle, because any auto mechanic or auto parts store will cheerfully let you drop one off - they have value! Mind you, that's lead-acid, and that's in pursuit of $3-4 of mineral value.

EV batteries will be even more recycled for several reasons.

  • EV batteries tend to last the life of the car*, so they'll tend to end up at a commercial scrap company. (nobody DIY-scraps cars).
  • They have a heck of a lot more mineral value.
  • EV batteries are extremely heavy - far too heavy for shade-tree DIY work. So nearly all battery swaps will be done at commercial garages with access to a recycling chain (already, for their lead-acids).
  • The fate of EV batteries is closely watched for political reasons (not least by anti-EV types to argue against them)... so companies that handle them are less likely to deal dirty.

The only real leakage I expect from this chain-of-custody is from DIYer off-grid types who are taking old EV batteries to build home solar power systems. However, those people are few... and as a rule they tend to be environmentally conscious.

* Another way of putting that is that the EV batteries last a long time, and represents so much of the car's value.... that by the time the battery is simply exhausted, the car's market value has faded to nil, and it's probably worn out too. It would simply be madness to put a $5000 used battery into a $500 car.

  • Ok when the battery of a Tesla car is exhausted, is it recycled? Does Tesla get them for recycling? How much % of it can be recycled?
    – Joe Jobs
    Jan 28, 2021 at 22:57
  • 2
    Problem is, it's not happening -- see this answer: "At present recycling lithium from batteries costs about 5 times the cost of mined lithium."
    – LShaver
    Jan 29, 2021 at 0:38

Technically the whole sum of the battery is recyclable. However it must be dissassembled and dismantled, a complicated process, which is why Almost NONE are. Despite their proliferation, Since EV's aren't exactly widely adopted. The growth of ICE cars around the world is going to outstrip EV manufacturing capability for years to come. For ever, once subsidies become too high for taxpayers to accept, EV sales will crash. EV cars measure just 0.167% of global auto fleet, One out of every 600 cars, Auto industry Spent BIllions on outfitting factories to make cars that only saturate 1% of all new auto sales. Just to make them Environmentalists whine it takes 30,000 lbs (15 tons) of raw material to make a 3000 lb car. It takes Over 4000+ tons of rock/ore to make One electric car, ICE engines made with iron/aluminum come from scrap by melting down cans and scrap metal. EV's require fresh resources of cobalt, lithium, copper, etc. You have to start an industrial revolution over again but instead of coal/iron; you're now digging up HALF the periodic table all of which is dug, mined, processed, manufactured, and shipped using fossil fuels. Under the guise of technology which is supposedly gonna "Rid us" of fossil fuels. Driving is only a small portion of a cars energy embodiment/life cycle, there's heavy energy investment in the beginning and late stages of it's life, namely manufacturing and recycling.

It takes 1000x more lithium to make an EV battery than a laptop battery.

  • 1
    The majority of this answer appears to be a rant about EVs in general and the industry as a whole - not sure how relevant it is to the question of how much of an EV battery is or can be recycled.
    – Robotnik
    Jul 23, 2021 at 5:33

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