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CVMA and Call2Recycle recommend national battery end-of-life strategy

IMAGE: The cover of CVMA and Call2Recycle's report
Screenshot courtesy the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association.

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA) and Call2Recycle Canada Inc. are calling for electric vehicle (EV) battery management in the country to be harmonized, reducing emissions and costs while aiding in the creation of a circular battery economy.

Among the steps the groups seek is the establishment of a national EV battery end-of-vehicle-life management policy aligned, where possible, on a continent-wide basis. It is the first of eight recommendations in their new report, EV Battery Management at End-of-Vehicle Life.

The report also recommends adopting five EV battery pathways as the foundation for future policy and business decisions: repair, remanufacture, resale as is, repurpose and recycle.

“We saw a few common themes. One was that the regulations in place today allow the movement of the batteries to happen properly. But it is a little cumbersome, and it has a higher carbon footprint than is needed,” said Jeff Haltrecht, an executive at Call2Recycle. 

“What I liked about this set (of recommendations) is that the federal government has policies in place, but they were written before EVs became a thing and it's time to evolve these policies.

"The good news is that (Natural Resources Canada), Transport Canada, (Environment and Climate Change Canada) are open to amending their policies to allow the batteries to flow more freely.”

The CVMA has represented the light- and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturing industry for over 90 years. Membership includes Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. Collectively, its members operate five vehicle assembly plants as well as engine and components plants, and have over 1,300 dealerships.

Call2Recycle is the provincially-approved consumer battery collection and recycling program for B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and P.E.I., and operates as a registered Producer Responsibility Organization in Ontario. Since 1997, it has diverted almost 40,000 tonnes of batteries from Canadian landfills from more than 9,500 collection locations.

EV battery management

The report took around two years to complete, interviewing just over 140 EV battery stakeholders.

For Haltrecht, the biggest surprises in the report came from misconceptions that were debunked. One is the significant progress around battery diagnostics.

“I think by the end of the decade, it looks like we're gonna have diagnostic tools . . . to analyze the battery and know how much charge it holds,” Haltrecht said. “Then you're gonna make a really good business decision based upon the state of health of the battery.”

Another is that an average of 60 per cent of the cost of handling a battery is freight. One solution would be to allow batteries to be shipped on pallets to avoid the cost of sending an empty crate out just to ship a battery.

“We are in the early stages of understanding the cost structure for handling the batteries,” he said.

He also explained shipping an EV battery halfway across Canada costs roughly $250 – not including costs for shipping a freight container – if the battery is damaged or defective and requires fire-protection measures. 

Transport Canada's battery classification system – small versus large – also requires an update. While the overall concept makes sense, with new technologies coming into play hybrid and fully electric batteries can be included in the large category, creating more cumbersome management for vehicle manufacturers.

Regulations around shipping permits could also be smoothed out to allow for easier transportation.

“We need the ability to move the batteries freely from any location to any other location, without forcing a stop somewhere because the permit says you have to ship out of that specific location,” Haltrecht said.

Canada’s EV battery future

Despite the need for these and other improvements, Haltrecht is optimistic about Canada’s EV battery prospects.

“Not only Canada is going to lead in North America,” he stated, “I think Canada is going to lead globally.”

So far, there are $13.7 billion worth of investments being made in Canadian EV manufacturing. 

Between now and 2035, Haltrecht wants to see more cathode manufacturing in Canada, singling out the Bécancour, Que. industrial park as a developing hub for battery manufacturing. He also mentioned the evolution of battery recycling companies, like Toronto’s Li-Cycle Holdings Corp.

There are four battery recycling plants in Canada, all focused on lithium. Cirba Solutions and Li-Cycle are at commercial scale, while RecycLiCo Battery Materials and Lithion Recycling Inc. are at the demonstration stage.

In March, General Motors Co. and POSCO Chemical announced plans to develop a $500 million facility in Bécancour to produce cathode active materials (CAM). The same month, BASF also signed an agreement to produce CAM there, with commissioning expected in 2025.

Part of the optimism comes from the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act and the benefits it gives to the EV industry. In Canada, he emphasized the need for more battery and EV manufacturing plants as well as mining sites, but was positive on the potential for North American collaboration.

“We know that batteries are going across borders. Now the regulations have to fully align, so that Canada stays competitive,” he said.

Haltrecht also is open to iterative versions of the report, even to the point of giving EV battery diagnostics its own version. 

“We know not everything's in place, but we now have a good idea of what has to be put in place,” he said. “It needs a little bit of time and needs a little bit of money, a little bit of ingenuity from the engineers.”

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