What happens when a battery is no longer fit to power an EV?

It is expected that on average EVs will have an average lifetime of around 15 years, similar to petrol and diesel vehicles (or equivalent in terms of total kilometres driven e.g. 180,000-200,000 km).

After around 15 years the battery will still function but may only have around 75% of its original capacity, meaning ~75% of the original driving range. While this is likely still suitable for many owners, at this stage there are likely other general components of the vehicle that may need replacement/refurbishment e.g. suspension, similar to a 15-year-old petrol or diesel vehicle. Some EV owners may choose to replace the battery, and other general components, to extend the life of the vehicle.

The exciting thing about EV batteries is that even after 15 years of use in a vehicle, they can be removed and find a “second-life” powering homes, buildings and the grid. This is because these batteries will still hold significant amounts of energy – enough to power several houses. It also means the EV owner will be able to sell these used EV batteries for use in other applications, helping to reduce the cost of a new battery for their EV, or the purchase of a new EV.

EV batteries are expected to last another 10 or so years in second-life applications, after which they can then be largely recycled, with the captured materials being used to manufacture brand-new batteries. Research is ongoing to maximise the recovery of materials from recycled batteries, but already well over 90% of recycled battery material can be used. Eventually, it is expected a closed loop will be established, as part of a circular economy, where the batteries can be fully recycled into new batteries and other components.

Given the small number of EVs currently on Australian roads and their long lifetimes, there is not currently a significant number of used batteries for second-life applications and/or recycling. As the local fleet increases, this economic development opportunity for our country will likely emerge. This is expected to take place during the mid to late 2030s.