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With rapid growth in electric vehicle ownership comes a higher number of electric car battery faults, and growing pressure on OEMs to restore faulty battery packs to the required level – or face escalating warranty costs and reputational risk.
In addition to this, the automotive industry is under pressure to decarbonise transport and tackle its environmental impact. Simply producing EVs isn’t enough; they must also yield the greatest possible environmental benefit.
There is a widespread view that recycling provides the best route to circularity, and that EV battery repair isn’t feasible – we know this to be a myth. Below we debunk the common misconceptions surrounding EV battery remanufacturing and outline why targeted battery repairs are both possible and integral to the future success of the industry.
A common misunderstanding is that recycling faulty batteries is the ultimate solution for electric vehicle circularity, and yet, this negates the clear environmental and economic benefits of battery repair and remanufacture. EV battery recycling of course has its place, but should be the last resort, rather than the first option for OEMs; to illustrate our point, we refer to the ‘hierarchy of waste’ which stipulates the order of actions of Autocraft’s 5R process.
Repair falls under the category of prevention as it allows manufacturers to salvage faulty packs containing healthy modules and use them to replace faulty ones, thereby restoring the pack to its highest possible performance state. Doing this prevents premature battery decline and keeps the vehicle in operation for longer so that the maximum environmental benefits can accrue. Given the residual value that can still be extracted, it is self-evident that repair should be attempted in the first instance, rather than simply choosing to recycle, or before any battery packs are broken down and stripped of their materials for second life.
Additionally, battery recycling carries a much higher cost to the environment, compared to repair. For instance, a report by the organisation Circular Energy Storage revealed that remanufacturing can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 66% compared to recycling processes. Equally our own in-house testing revealed the enormous environmental benefits of EV remanufacturing, as illustrated in the following graph:
This is true, no EV battery can be restored to new condition, as the first time it is used an irreversible chemical reaction occurs setting in motion natural degradation over time, known as calendar ageing. The process is typical for all manner of batteries; however, remanufacturing can improve the condition of the battery pack.
Cyclical deterioration occurs because of how the vehicle is driven and charged and can in fact be reversed by replacing the weakest cells with healthy existing ones. This ensures battery performance meets the required level of performance for the remainder of the warranty period, or indeed, at any other point beyond that, since repairs can be carried out at multiple times throughout a battery’s life, halting premature decline and maximising longevity.
The EU Parliament’s first ever directive on electric vehicle batteries states that a remanufactured battery pack can be sold as a remanufactured product, so long as the remanufacturing process has brought the state of health back to a minimum of a 90% threshold. The directive is clear on the environmental and commercial value of EV battery remanufacturing and its role in ensuring that battery packs are not prematurely scrapped.
By restoring battery performance via this method, this insulates automakers from considerable warranty costs and reputational risk, at a fraction of the cost to the planet.
Previously, an electric vehicle battery fault had the potential to render an entire pack obsolete, despite the fault being located within only a select group of modules or cells. Because batteries only perform to the level of the weakest performing cells, this would compromise the performance of the entire battery, requiring it to be replaced with a new one. The value of the remaining healthy modules within said pack was, in essence, discarded, a direct outcome of inadequate testing methods, which prevented OEMs from accurately pinpointing the issue.
In contrast, our dynamic testing capability now provides us with a granular picture of State of Health (SoH), identifying where faults are located on a cellular level. Armed with these insights, we can target the affected area, replacing faulty cells with healthy ones, leaving the majority of the EV battery fully intact.
We have a duty to extract every last bit of value from every single EV battery pack, and we can now deliver on this promise. Through our unique grading capability, we can determine which modules from a ‘failed’ pack are suitable to be integrated into another pack to restore it to optimal health.
Up until a few years ago, the repair of EV batteries was considered unfeasible and unsafe, yet we have disproved this, as the only company in the world to offer dynamic testing and repair on an industrial scale which adheres to the strictest safety standards.
By incorporating advanced technologies such as LIDAR and augmented reality within our REVIVE® Mobile and Workshop EV battery repair centres, we ensure safety protocols are followed without fail to create a safe working environment for personnel.
Autocraft’s EV repair processes combine the power of technology with the dexterity and skill of human engineers; our technologies guide employees step by step through high specification repairs in the safest possible manner, providing the most viable and cost-effective route to addressing battery faults and minimising the scope for repeat failure. Equipping our repair and storage facilities with early detection and fire suppression systems which can safely eject any battery packs experiencing a thermal event provides yet another layer of security.
Our understanding of EV battery safety is constantly improving, and we are always working to optimise our safety processes to ensure we account for every possible risk.
Electric vehicle battery repair is both a viable and sustainable option, something that can no longer be ignored within an industry which has traditionally prioritised the production of new batteries, or in recent years, chosen first to recycle.
By utilising dynamic testing and employing a circular approach to the replacement of faulty modules through remanufacturing in EV, we can open up further performance possibilities without contributing to a larger environmental footprint in the process.
As the path to decarbonisation accelerates, and battery technology advances, all partners in the supply chain are duty-bound to exhaust existing resources before extracting new ones, and battery remanufacture is the number one option for doing so.