Worried Catalytic Converter Recycling Will Become Obsolete with EVs?

EVs and converters

The promise of an all-electric vehicle fleet is approaching in giant leaps, but it doesn’t have to feel like a looming dark cloud over your converter recycling business. Electric vehicles (EVs) still have significant hurdles to overcome before they can dominate the automotive industry entirely.

But what are these obstacles, and will EV automakers be able to surmount them? Get ready to uncover five barriers that EVs will have to break down before they can become staple pieces of the automotive world. You’ll also discover how the EV market impacts your business—and the future opportunities it will bring to your doors.

1: Charging Stations and Range Issues Slow Down Sales

Imagine running out of battery power while driving in the left lane. That’s a real concern for hundreds of consumers who are considering an EV for their next vehicle. Experts at Recyclers Powersource magazine call this phenomenon Range Anxiety.

Some charging stations experience failures or equipment malfunctions like broken screens or payment system failures. Charging your EV to full capacity could take up to 30 minutes, but with limited charging stations, some consumers have to wait for other EV drivers to fully charge their vehicle before they can plug theirs in.

Another crucial issue that keeps consumers from adopting EVs is range, especially in cold weather. Extremely cold temperatures can reduce EV driving range by up to 70%, which is both a dangerous outcome and an expensive one.

2: Delivery Delays

Legacy automakers like Ford, GM, Ashton Martin, and Cadillac transitioning to electric vehicles face challenges in adapting to new technologies and processes.

This is why car buyers are waiting 1-2 year to receive their brand-new EV. And some delays are pushed back even further as more software problems, batter technology limitations, and range issues emerge.

These long delays are dragging demand even lower than expected, while some consumers abandon the EV idea altogether and switch back to internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

3: Rising Price Tags and Associated Loan Interests

It’s no secret that interest rates have skyrocketed in the past 2 years, especially for auto loans. And electric vehicles aren’t exempt of that expensive equation.

The average price of an EV sold in the USA in July 2023 was $53,400. In the same year, a gas-powered vehicle’s average cost was $48,300. Although the price difference may be slim, a lower cost will always be more attractive to the consumer, especially with high interest rates.

But what about government credits? Metals Recycling magazine reports that EV sales aren’t even close to ICE vehicle sales, even with tax credits or government grants of up to $7500. So what’s the problem? Could it be range anxiety and delivery delays? Or could it be a combination of battery concerns and price?

4: EV Batteries: A Positive or Negative Force?

A giant unknown in the world of EVs remains its battery, with most concerns circling the mining of lithium and the repurposing of scrap batteries. This raises environmental concerns, especially as we enter the race to net-zero emission by 2050.

For now, creating a standard recycling process is difficult. EV batteries have different designs and varying chemistries depending on the car, making it impossible to pin down one specific process for all batteries and for all recyclers. This leads to rising costs, and sometimes, the value of recovered materials may not always cover the cost of recycling.

As EV adoption grows, companies like LiCycle in Ontario invest in research and development facilities to create a cost-effective and green recycling process. But this process will take time, and in the meanwhile, the fact of the matter remains: EV battery recycling is not where it should be.

Mining Lithium: Conflicts and Concerns

Mining lithium contributes to water over-consumption and pollution, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and air pollution. As a society who wishes to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to find solutions to recycle lithium batteries so we can decrease our reliance on mining. And conserve our planet’s valuable resources.

5: Replacement and Repair Costs

EVs have a unique construction that make some battery repairs impossible, leading to write offs or extremely costly bills. That’s because EV batteries have a complex design and aren’t easily recyclable, which complicates repairs or replacement efforts.

For example, insurance companies often write off certain Tesla Model Y cars as total losses because repairing even minor battery damage proves too costly. Some consumers experience minor damages to their batteries—and have to say goodbye to the entire car because the cost of repairing or replacing that component is uneconomical.

The absence of unified repair infrastructure creates further hurdles for EVs. Recycling facilities and repair shops lack the necessary services and tools to address EV components like batteries. That’s because EVs are still a new technology, with only automakers possessing the required training and tools for repairs. This can drive up the cost for car owners if they need to get any component fixed or replaced.

These concerns drag down EV sales because consumers want to make a reliable and economical car purchase. Improving long-term viability and affordability of EVs means establishing standardized processes, tools, and training for repairing and replacing EV components.

EV Sales and Demand: What that Means for the Future of Your Converters

EV demand and sales are growing slower than expected. Consumers are less willing to adopt EVs. According to AutoTrader, 56% of consumers want EVs, which is down 68% from 2022. That means less and less people are jumping on the EV train, which shows that the trend of EVs has slowed, and consumers prefer to take their time to choose the right option for them.

But most importantly, it means consumers still want gasoline cars.

What that means for your converter recycling business is that you won’t run out of material to buy for decades to come. EVs are facing too much heat, and until their concerns are addressed, consumers are just going to stick to what they know and what is a safer bet: ICE cars.

Even as EV and hybrid sales continue to rise, the need for recycling converters will persist long after the sale of the final gas-powered car. Even in an era dominated by electric vehicles, converters will remain essential for recycling and processing due to their valuable metal content.

Hybrid vehicles are the more compelling option in the interim. Consumers, while exploring electric battery technology, prefer the reliability of a gas engine, leading to increasing sales of hybrid vehicles in recent years. But the good news is that hybrid cars have converters with higher loadings of platinum, palladium, and rhodium, enhancing their value as recyclable assets for your business. This ensures a sustained demand for converter recycling services for decades to come.

Published: April 24, 2024
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