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We have already reached a turning point within automotive history. For the first time ever, electric vehicles have moved beyond a niche segment and into the mass market. For the automotive industry to sustain this transition, and for it to entice the remaining population of vehicle drivers to make the switch to electric, certain conditions need to be met.
One of the big question marks lingering over electric vehicles is their ability to perform reliably over the long term. As with ICE, EVs experience some decline throughout their lifetime, which typically manifests in a drop in range and/or a reduction in output. Historically, the root causes of a drop in performance were less easy to detect – and even more challenging to correct with absolute accuracy.
This scenario has seen countless EV batteries needlessly sent for incineration to extract raw materials, a process that uses significant quantities of energy and water, while also generating massive carbon emissions. This heavy environmental price is impossible to justify when there is still viable life within the existing battery cells.
For the industry to truly reach its goals, its focus must be on maintaining optimal performance for as long as possible, instead of defaulting to recycling at the earliest opportunity. The capability exists to make this a reality, now is the time to make use of it and to recognise the value that it can deliver.
Simply put, a “repair-first” mindset is a firm commitment to continually optimising battery health in order to extract maximum value from each module throughout its lifetime. Preventing waste in the first instance is significantly more sustainable than recycling, particularly when modules are still able to perform to the required standard.
EV battery decline is viewed by many as inevitable – but it is possible to significantly reduce this decline. While a portion of EV battery degradation occurs as a result of irreversible calendar aging – a product of battery chemistry – cyclical ageing related to usage can be reversed by replacing underperforming modules with healthy ones.
Through Autocraft’s REVIVE™ EV battery testing capability, we can correctly identify exactly where a fault has occurred on a cellular level, allowing us to tackle the root cause of performance issues. This capability has significant implications for EV reliability, since battery faults no longer render a battery obsolete (and ready for recycling), thereby eliminating much of the risk associated with EV ownership and overcoming yet another obstacle to widespread adoption.
Being able to address faults is hugely important if we are to unlock the performance and environmental benefits of EV. Even more critical, however, is being able to predict where future faults are likely to occur so that pre-emptive action can be taken. In this way, a proactive approach to EV battery repair is crucial to identifying potential causes of decline and addressing them before they become problematic. This prevents issues from spreading and accelerating the rate of decline.
Our pioneering use of digital twins provides us with in-depth insights into how batteries perform throughout their lifecycle, providing us with a benchmark for performance and highlighting any potentially problematic cells which deviate from the norm.
Industry-leading repair methodologies like REVIVE™ allow us to restore EV batteries to their optimal level, given where each battery is at in its lifecycle. When we do this, we effectively extend the battery lifespan, ensuring it performs to the required standard, whether for the remainder of the warranty period or any point beyond that. For manufacturers, this ensures they are able to meet their performance obligations, with minimal chance of repeat failures. For the used EV market, the appeal of vehicles outside of the warranty period is now greatly increased, as they are now able to perform to the required standard for as much as two times longer than without any kind of intervention. The longer vehicles remain in operation, the greater the environmental benefits that can accrue to offset the cost of producing them.
Aside from the clear environmental cost of recycling battery packs, it is worth highlighting how recycling diminishes the supply of available healthy modules to replace faulty ones. When a battery pack fails, it is highly probable that a large portion of the modules can still perform to the required standard, yet these are often needlessly disposed of, thus turning a blind eye to their residual value. If the automotive industry is serious about meeting its circularity goals, such waste can no longer be considered acceptable.
Using modules that have been recovered from failed battery packs allows us to restore optimal battery performance, with only a fraction of the environmental footprint of producing a new one. Recycling is appropriate as a last resort but should only be considered once all options to repair batteries, or repurpose them for alternative applications, have been explored. Until then, any attempt to recycle is wasteful and generates additional environmental impact, rather than alleviating it.
Advancements in our REVIVE™ EV battery testing and remanufacturing can provide the foundation for a powerful shift in favour of repairing EV battery packs instead of recycling them. We believe this holds the key to unlocking the performance and environmental value of EV and see it as our mission to instil a repair-first mindset across the wider industry, so that recycling only enters the conversation once all of the viable life of the individual cells has been exhausted.