back to article Toyota wants 'closed loop' EV batteries in its future cars

Toyota has ambitious plans for the future of its electric vehicles, and it's turning to a Tesla founder to make them happen. The North American arm of the Japanese automaker has partnered with Redwood Materials to help it develop a battery supply chain that collects, recycles, refurbishes, and remanufactures EV batteries and …

  1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Of course they do. The profit options are tremendous.

    Which is precisely why they will do everything they can to stymie, delay and break any standards that might come to fruit in the EV charging and battery market.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Monopoly

    Politicians are stuffed

    Eco mob ready to block the roads

    Children in Africa think mining Lithium is what all children in the world do

    Now it's time to control the market

    So we can decide who can drive a car and who cannot.

    Also nobody elected us.

    Welcome serfs to the 4th Industrial Revolution.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Monopoly

      "Children in Africa think mining Lithium is what all children in the world do

      "

      You are likely thinking of Cobalt, but the child labor issue has been a misdirection from the start. How much labor can a 5 year old child do in the mining process? Ever "help" your parents with yard work or making a meal when you were that young? How much "help" did you actually contribute. In poor parts of the world where kids are "a blessing" meaning they aren't planned, daycare is also in short supply. Parents often have their younger ones with them throughout the day to be looked after, not because their labor is all that valuable. Older kids might be more useful and part of that is so there is money to put basic food on the table where there is no government program to give them free food and housing.

      If Cobalt makes Li chemistry batteries more efficient, safer, longer lasting or able to be recharged faster, that might counterintuitively make the whole child/slave labor aspect go away. Companies will be looking to contract for it by the ton not the kg which makes manual labor problematic. A giant digger with dump trucks as tall as a 3 story block of flats is much more effective in mining than a whole bunch of people working the site with picks, shovels and barrows. The people might be cheaper, but they can't keep up with delivering the quantity.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Monopoly

        So you actually showed how this is not sustainable. Why these people are poor if they work? Why their children have to go to the mine with them and not be at school or doing what children in the West do?

        It seems like the world depends on not paying those people living wages and not affording even basic employment laws.

      2. badflorist

        Re: Monopoly

        "...child labor issue has been a misdirection from the start."

        LOL.. a hilarious misdirect in itself.

        Try finding 1 video from a kid in the Congo... Youtube, Odyssey, TikTok... 4Chan... just 1 video from anywhere.

        1. Francis Boyle

          Re: Monopoly

          Kids from one of the world's poorest counties aren't able to make videos for the internet. Well colour me shocked.

  3. MachDiamond Silver badge

    He didn't.

    JB Straubel isn't a co-founder of Tesla although he did get a judge to allow him to say he was. That said to correct some continual bad journalism, I think it's a good idea for OEM's to be working with EOL companies to create EV battery packs that can be broken down, refurbished and repurposed when they finished being used in cars. Tesla could use the help. A Model 3 breakdown I've seen photos of shows the cells in the pack locked in with a silicone-type material. That's not going to be fun to work around that mess. The Model S packs are in high demand due to their modularity. It's a great idea not to just think about the original purpose of the batteries, but how they can be used further down the road and finally "mined" for materials.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "a move that researchers involved said could cut the cost of solar installations by half."

    I was wondering why adding something to a solar installation could cut the cost by half - unless it came with free money. The quoted article says it cuts the cost of solar storage installations by half. As it's using second-hand components that's not surprising.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "I was wondering why adding something to a solar installation could cut the cost by half "

      A fast way to cut the price of a solar PV installation in half is to get rid of the permit and planning fees.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "a closed loop battery manufacturing process"

    I like the idea.

    Electric/hybrid vehicles are certainly nice, and it'll be a great thing for city dwellers when the noise of traffic is lowered to just the sound of tires on the road, but I've always been sceptical about the battery issue.

    Not to mention that, if this is truly supposed to be a "green" solution, then we'll need to get rid of coal power plants - but okay, baby steps.

    It will however be quite reassuring to know that batteries have become like aluminium cans - endlessly recyclable.

    If we ever get there.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: "a closed loop battery manufacturing process"

      Having the batteries more or less endlessly recyclable would be great! I totally agree. If money can be made form that it will happen. What the effect of that might be on consumer prices will remain to be seen. Some companies rent out the batteries and give you a new one after so many loading cycles. For those companies it would make a lot of sense to have a recycling plan.

      Coal is an issue, yes. Though having the photovoltaic installations + EV would be useful in many places and reduce the need for burning fossile fuels - that is, if you have a parking lot close to the house.... and you do not live up North. However, it is mostly water power in Norway anyway, and they have tons of EV on the road. Electromobility is so successful they are phasing out most incentives in the bigger cities (as far as I am aware... have not really followed that in a while).

      Meanwhile in Germany, small electric vehicles that make great commuter cars (for shorter distances on more rural roads, from the suburb bereft of public transport to the city) do not benefit from tax breaks or subsidaries, only the bigger cars do. I have friends who still own such EVs, and really enjoy them. For my commute they would not work (distance, limited maximum speed < 80km/h), so they are not for everybody. A Twizzy (or a similar small vehicle) takes up less space and uses less energy than, say, an electrifed Porsche (which is subsidised...).

    2. fajensen

      Re: "a closed loop battery manufacturing process"

      Toyota kinda have to come up with a system like that to sell EV's in the EU market. They haven't got an EV-car yet, it takes a few years to get there, so they will have to have the production set up for "what it is like in 2025".

      There are EU rules and directives about companies "taking their own crap back".

      For car-makers the trip into new territory on recykliing started in earnest with the plastic and composite parts (the metals were already "done"), but, the scope of the "circular economy" is being gradually expanded and the enforcement is getting stricter too.

      Used EV-batteries are an obvious next iteration, Toyota probably believe that if they can get in front of the process and set an example, that example will become what Everyone must implement, and then they will have a competitive advantage.

      I like the idea too.

  6. Potemkine! Silver badge
    1. jmch Silver badge

      "No, it doesn't. It moves the pollution to elsewhere."

      Well, it depends. If the electricity is coming from coal, it's at least as polluting. If the electricity is coming from a non-hydrocarbon source , it's significantly less polluting, depending on the exact source. If you're comparing petrol in an ICE vs fuel oil in a combined-cycle turbine, one is about 35% efficient, the other over 50%, so it's considerably less polluting to use an electric car.

      That's not to mention that producing all the pollution in one place allows it to be more easily filtered and captured, while tailpipe emissions are spread everywhere, with a lot of it released in residential / urban areas - it's just difficult to quantify the billions in health costs that that causes. In any case, electric cars get "cleaner" sa the generation gets cleaner (which is the current trend) while ICE cars are "dirty" forever.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Gas is still the more used energy source to produce electricity worldwide. Let also mention the pollution created by lithium extraction, which harms the soil and causes air contamination.. ICE cars are not clean.

        That's not to mention that producing all the pollution in one place allows it to be more easily filtered and captured

        That's theory, but it is not. First, CO2 produced by conventional power stations goes into the atmosphere: Over 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions are due to the burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation. Next as I mentioned coal alone kills tens of thousands of Europeans each year mostly because of particles. 500 millions of Chinese people have their life expectancy reduced by 5 years because of Coal.

        If there's an urgency, it's producing electricity without gas or coal. That will have a much bigger impact that producing a lot of new cars to replace the old ones, which will use a lot of resource and produce a lot of pollution.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          "If there's an urgency, it's producing electricity without gas or coal. That will have a much bigger impact that producing a lot of new cars to replace the old ones"

          It's not either-or. Both are needed. And since one big turbine is far more efficient than thousands of ICEs, less CO2 is produced per km driven, even if the source of an electric cars' electricity is a combined-cycle oil or gas-burning plant.

          Regarding coal, you are right and that should be phased out as soon as possible, keep in mind that most of the health issues around coal-burning are around particulates not CO2. The current big "problem" with coal usage is it's easy and cheap because it externalises the health costs. Make coal plants pay for the health costs and the cost advantage goes away.

          There's also a lot of hypocrisy around it eg with Germany closing nuclear and promoting wind / solar, and then forced to buy coal power from Poland when they're short...

          1. Potemkine! Silver badge

            The point is there 's an order to follow. There's no point to move to electricity if electricity is made from coal.

            Removing coal from electricity production would have a much more bigger impact than changing all cars to IEC cars.

            Coal is used more and more to producing electricity. Nowadays, more IEC cars means more coal burnt. It's a nonsense.

            less CO2 is produced per km driven, even if the source of an electric cars' electricity is a combined-cycle oil or gas-burning plant.

            Please share your sources to illustrate that, with taking into account the CO2 produced to replace a still-working car by a IEC one.

            1. jmch Silver badge
              Boffin

              "Please share your sources to illustrate that..."

              A simple Google search on efficiency of ICEs (typically around 35%, maximum 40% ) vs combined cycle oil/gas burning (typically 50-55%, maximum 60%) X transmission efficiency (approx 95-97%) X battery charging efficiency (approx 85%) = 40-45%. If the same fuel is burnt, ICE is marginally less efficient trhan combined-cycle turbine in terms of useful energy (and hence actual km driven) per amount of fuel (and hence CO2 produced).

              If the power station burns gas, CO2 per unit of energy is approx 25% less.

              https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/faq/how-much-carbon-dioxide-produced-when-different-fuels-are-burned

              The paper that you linked to itself says that for 150k km driven, electric cars are 10-24% more eco-friendly from a global warming perspective for the current European energy mix (back in 2012). Since 2012 Europe has added a lot of wind/solar capacity and scaled down nuclear. Most of the expansion in global coal use happened before 2012 and is mostly in China and India. Yes, it is a big issue to replace coal with nuclear or reliable renewables.

              But electric cars worldwide use a total of 30TWh/year (2021). Global electric production is 27,000 TWh/yr (2020). So even multiplying the global electric car fleet by 10 is barely going to budge the needle on total electricity consumption. It's really not a reason to not get an electric car.

              https://www.iea.org/commentaries/electric-cars-fend-off-supply-challenges-to-more-than-double-global-sales

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production

              "...taking into account the CO2 produced to replace a still-working car by a IEC one."

              I'm not taking that into account, in fact I agree it makes little environmental sense to buy an electric car to replace a working ICE car. But if buying a new car anyway, electric is generally more environmentally friendly than ICE (particularly if batteries are on closed-loop recycling). Of course it's never going to be as environment-friendly as a bicycle, and different people will give different weights to the environmental cost of CO2 vs lithium mining.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                But electric cars worldwide use a total of 30TWh/year (2021). Global electric production is 27,000 TWh/yr (2020). So even multiplying the global electric car fleet by 10 is barely going to budge the needle on total electricity consumption. It's really not a reason to not get an electric car.

                You clearly have no idea how the generation and power networks work. This additional generation isn't averaged out over every cable but will be centralised in sub-sections of the network that simply will not have the capacity to cope with simultaneous recharging occurring during the peak period.

                Realistically you are looking at at 5-7kW additional load for every EV being charged at home - what's the capacity of the typical household supply and what's the typical existing load (cooking, heating etc) of said household at peak times throughout the year? Then look at how many would do this under your "no reason not to buy one" concept and see if the system can copy.

                Charging EVs off of solar is a patently unrealistic strawman argument for the vast majority which means it falls to the grid to pick up the slack. Most simply cannot yet the proponents seldom let that reality get in the way of a good headline.

                NB I work in power generation.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is a TED talk by an environmentalist (self-described) on EVs. In it they state that (at the time of the talk) it takes on average 150,000 miles of driving for an EV to break even environmentally with an ICE vehicle and 400,000+ miles to break even with a hybrid due to the much larger environmental cost involved in manufacture and the fact that most will be charged from grids that are not carbon zero.

        Their conclusion was that if you want to help to environment right now get a hybrid.

    2. Jonathon Green

      [checks smart meter and car charger dashboard app] My home is currently exporting a couple of hundred watts of electricity from solar PV while my car charges at 8 amps (which is plenty for my current usage pattern). If there’s coal being burnt to run electric vehicles it’s not generally on my account…

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        How smug of you. It's good for you that you:

        a) Can afford to have solar PV installed, and...

        b) Have appropriate roof construction (assuming it's installed on your roof) to make solar PV viable, and...

        c) You can afford an EV car, and...

        d) Have somewhere to safely charge you EV car from your solar PV installation, and...

        e) Have driving needs that mean an EV car isn't an impractical hinderance.

        Lacking any one of those makes it a non-starter. And the majority lack at least one of those. Sometimes all.

        1. Mark 65

          f) Don't need to use your EV during daylight which is the only point at which your solar can charge the vehicle.

          For most people who tend to use their vehicle during the day, solar will not be providing the top-up.

  7. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

    Value in old things...

    Surely it's a good thing that more is recycled. But, the more that a car can be recycled the higher the residual value of old cars before they are recycled.

    That is, secondhand prices will be higher and very old cheap cars won't exist which will then reduce mobility for poorer people.

    1. fajensen

      Re: Value in old things...

      Well, "we*" are allowing poverty to exist and thrive, so, "society" belives it has value: Obviously, we can't then have workarounds and hacks that diminish the effects of being poor?

      *) My personal opinion is that poverty should not exist in an advanced economy like ours. Being "advanced" kinda implies that any medieval and 3'rd world stuff should not be allowed here. It diminishes our investment in "civilisation", as it were. However, The Daily Mail segment wants it differently and they are in government, so...

    2. Francis Boyle

      Re: Value in old things...

      And when there's a market for it the car companies will introduce small cheap no-frills electric vehicles just like Chinese companies are doing right now. Either that or those Chinese companies will and it will be the 1970's all over again.

      1. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

        Re: Value in old things...

        The cars they produce cannot be lower priced than their residual value.

        There are cheap new cars now, but they're still in the 10k EUR range, that's a lot more than many people spend on cars.

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