In Flanders (Menen) as well as in Wallonia (Obourg), a 'depollution site' (called EC+) has been opened for electrified vehicles, both hybrid and fully electric ones.
“The number of electric cars is rapidly increasing, the recycling business has to prepare for it”, said Galloo CEO Rik Naert.
Until now, a vehicle had to be "depolluted", then shredded and then the remaining materials could be given value again. With the addition of electrified cars, there is one extra step: making the vehicle safe. The high voltage battery systems ask for many precautions and skilled staff.
"Our employees had to attend a special training course," said Rik Debare from Galloo. “One of the difficulties is the different place and/or type of batteries for each brand. We have to follow a different step-by-step plan for all different vehicles.”
At the moment, the batteries themselves are sent back because they can be reused for other purposes, still having approximately 80% of their capacity. The rare earth metals in the electric engines and other components are valuable but need specific extraction methods.
The importers of some 40 brands have signed a manifesto for a secure, responsible and ecological recycling of hybrid and electric vehicles. Until now there are not many electric vehicles to recycle yet, just some old Toyota Prius models of the first and second generation, but this will grow rapidly.
“The number of electrified cars sold has doubled in the first quarter of 2019,” added Naert. “Twenty years ago we had to adapt ourselves to extract air cons and catalysts from the cars, this is the next big step.”
Febelauto, the federation for discarded cars, is in charge of recuperating the batteries. “When a battery isn’t charging at 80% of capacity, it’s not useful anymore,” said Catherine Lenaerts from Febelauto. “However, it can still be used for many other purposes of energy storage.”
“Today there are some 115,000 hybrid and electric cars in Belgium,” added Lenaerts. “But the number will undoubtedly increase a lot in the coming years. We have to be ready for it and give these batteries a second life," she added.
The Brussels Times