Can #Ontario boost #EV battery recycling before it’s too late?
First wave of electric vehicles is now coming off the roads — and its creating a thorny environmental predicament. Swapping gas-powered engines for battery-powered alternatives is essential if Canada is to meet emissions targets and avoid the worst effects of climate change. Lithium-ion batteries will become only more important in daily life, as the clean electrification of the power grid is a necessary step toward decarbonization. But that presents its own threats. Electric cars do not run on truly renewable energy: the batteries require finite materials that are mined from the earth at both an environmental and human cost. At the end of its lifespan, a discarded battery is dangerous to handle and can leak hazardous material in a landfill.
Roughly 3.4 million electric vehicles were produced globally in 2020. By 2024, some projections put the number near 13 million — others go even higher. The global market for EV batteries is projected to be worth nearly $1 trillion in 2030, when the International Energy Agency predicts that nearly one in three new vehicles on Canadian roads could be electric. “We have maybe 20 years before all the vehicles become electric,” says Asmae Mokrini, the team lead in materials for energy technology at the National Research Council’s lab in Boucherville, Quebec. “The actual supply chain will not withstand the transition without recyclable materials.”
Ontario is trying to carve out its place in the EV market. The 2021 budget highlighted $4.3 billion in investment from automakers to build electric vehicles in the province, introduced tens of millions for research in the sector, and announced a strategy for extracting battery minerals. The federal budget, announced Monday, likewise included funding for EV research and the mining of battery materials. But experts say that any strategy to become a leader in electric vehicles must include battery manufacturing and recycling.