New report urges B.C. to become region's leader in recycling electric vehicle batteries

WATCH: A new report says B.C. is well-positioned to become a leader in solving a growing problem connected to the popularity of electric vehicles: what to do with their batteries once they're dead. Ted Chernecki reports.

As the popularity of electric vehicles continues to surge, a clean energy think tank is urging British Columbia to take the national lead on recycling EV batteries.

Most EV batteries have an estimated average lifespan of between eight and 15 years, according to the Pembina Institute’s new Closing the Loop report, meaning the first EVs to hit the road in North America are already reaching the end of their battery life.

“The recycling and reuse of metals and minerals can and must play a key role in material supply and emission reductions for our transition to sustainable transportation,” reads the report.

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According to the B.C. government, there are more than 54,000 EVs registered in the province — the highest recorded uptake in North America.

If the province meets its targets for EV ownership in the province, there could be 107,000 of them in three years, and nearly 500,000 by 2030.

“There’s a lot of environmental impact whenever you mine things out of the ground, so we’re very keen to not let those things go back into the ground,” said Shane Thompson, president of Retriev Technologies, which specializes in battery recycling.

The company has the largest Tesla battery recycling facility in the Pacific Northwest located in Trail, a small city in the Western Interior of the B.C.

“We make a material where we’re grabbing kind of the part of the battery that has the nickel, the cobalt, the lithium and the manganese, and we’re sending that to another facility in Canada where ultimately the nickel and cobalt gets recovered,” he explained.

The technology still needs to be improved, Thompson added, so other materials in the EV battery can be easily used as well.

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Under the provincial government’s current plan, only zero-emission vehicles will be sold in B.C. by 2040.

Its “phased-in approach” for province-wide hybrid and EV battery recycling, however, would not take effect until late 2023 or early 2024, with all programs operational in 2026.

“British Columbia has acknowledged that a circular economy is a key pathway to reducing emissions, and British Columbia could certainly demonstrate leadership on this,” said Karen Tam Wu, regional director for the Pembina Institute.

The group’s report urges the B.C. government to accelerate the implementation of its recycling regulations from 2026 to 2023, and work with Ottawa to establish content targets for incorporating recycled metals and minerals into EV batteries produced in Canada.

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