It would be a shame if society moved to electric vehicles, resulting in clean air, but we buried ourselves in toxic mountains of used, dead batteries.
Yesterday I participated in a communications workshop on blogging. Two of my colleagues from Autodesk Research, Research Manager Dagmara Szkurlat and Principal AI Research Scientist Hooman Shayani, and I studied a technical article entitled "Optimising the geospatial configuration of a future lithium-ion battery recycling industry in the transition to electric vehicles and a circular economy" by Viet Nguyen-Tien, Qiang Dai, Gavin D.J. Harper, Paul A. Anderson, and Robert J. R. Elliott.
As part of the workshop, our exercise was to develop a title for a blog article that could explain the content of that technical paper. We considered:
- With the Rise of Electric Vehicles, Where Do the Batteries Go?
- Recycling Batteries: It's Still Location, Location, Location
- Electric Vehicles are Coming. If We Are to Recycle Their Batteries Sustainably, Finding the Right Location is Key.
You can see which one I preferred from this blog post. I was so fascinated by the technical article's content that I decided to summarize it on my own blog.
I am on the Strategic Foresight team at Autodesk. One of the things we see happening in the world is that transportation is moving to electric. This notion was backed up by futurist Peter Leyden, when he was a visiting fellow at Autodesk. If there is indeed going to be a shift to electric vehicles, we need to figure out how to recycle the batteries to avoid creating tons of toxic waste and to address the shortage of raw materials needed to create new batteries.
The electric battery industry has been focused on recycling, but the research paper noted that geographical considerations associated with recycling are often overlooked. This is a problem because dead batteries need to be transported to recycling centers, and minimizing the travel distance is beneficial. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there are different types of electric batteries, and where a battery can be recycled depends on the type of battery. Recycling centers typically specialize in recycling one type of battery, so there needs to be a system where the right battery gets to the right place for recycling.
In their paper, the authors propose a system called GABREAL (Geospatial Assessment of Battery Recycling Economics, Environment, and Location) as part of a circular economy where batteries are recycled for reuse in other electric vehicles or used as electric storage solutions for other applications. A unique aspect of GABREAL is that in addition to addressing the economic and environmental aspects of electric vehicle battery recycling, it also addresses location. Recycling centers need to be strategically placed, so they are near where the demand is (where the vehicles are when their batteries die), near transportation corridors (ease of transport), and near pools of labor (workers to staff recycling plants).
Years ago, Autodesk covered sustainability aspects of the lifecycle of electric vehicles at Autodesk University. This research paper backs that up.
A complete solution for transitioning to electric vehicles includes a way to recycle batteries that is cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and local.
At Autodesk, we are inspired by the prospect of a better world designed and made for all. Our mission is to empower innovators with design and make technology so they can achieve the new possible. To do that, we deliver customers intuitive, powerful, and accessible technology that provides automation and insight for their design and make processes, enabling them to achieve better outcomes for their products, their businesses, and the world. Autodesk technology is involved in the design and making of electric vehicles (Alias, VRED), electric batteries (Fusion 360, Inventor, AutoCAD), and hopefully, where to place recycling centers (AEC Collection) to avoid toxic mountains of used, dead batteries.
Complete solution transportation planning is alive in the lab.