As the number of electric vehicles and other battery-operated machines increases, one significant question remains largely unanswered — what will happen to these batteries after they are no longer usable?
There’s general agreement that batteries, with their efficient yet toxic mix of minerals and chemicals, are not good candidates for landfills. Ideas are being pursued to re-use car batteries as stationary energy sources for charging stations and low-power devices such as street lights, but even optimistic estimates grant another decade or two of use for the batteries. Harvesting the battery components is certainly possible, although there is debate over the cost effectiveness of this process. In other words, by around 2030 there could be an enormous amount of batteries that will be neither usable nor disposal.
Or perhaps not. Industrialists, who tend to look at the profitability rather than environmental impacts of issues, see the income potential in the battery disposal/recycling market, if for no other reason than having plenty of material on hand. And while national governments in recent years have backed away from alternative energy investment, voters remain committed to the technology. My gut feeling is that within four or five years, innovative solutions will be developed to lessen, although not eliminate, the impact these dying batteries will have on the environment and the economy. This is one of the more significant technological challenges of our time, but I’m optimistic a solution will be found.