Technological innovations generally solve needs and problems, but they also bring with them a series of drawbacks that, in most cases, are resolved over time. At a time when sales of electric bicycles are reaching record numbers, concern about what happens to used batteries is on the agenda.
Instead of simply disposing of them in landfills, Specialized, the American bicycle manufacturer, is partnering with Tesla co-founder JB Straubel’s Redwood Materials to ensure those batteries have a second life.
According to a report by The Verge, Redwood Materials – which currently recycles batteries for electric vehicles – will assess those depleted e-bike batteries and do two things. First, the company will recover usable connectors, wires, plastics, and other components before undertaking a chemical recycling process. Then, the batteries themselves will be processed so that elements such as nickel, cobalt, and copper can be extracted and used again to make new batteries.
As for the recovery of these batteries, Specialized said it plans to collect them from its retail partners through a pilot program, which forwards all recovered batteries to the Redwood facility. In addition to collecting components and reusing them, Specialized intends to reduce the use of fossil fuels to transport the depleted batteries to another place where they will be processed.
Straubel noted that although not many materials can be recovered, they will dedicate efforts to minimize the waste generated by an old battery. Specialized, for its part, made it clear that its initiative will start this year. In fact, electric bike owners, as well as future buyers, will be informed of the initiative.
In this way, Specialized joins other brands that have already started similar recycling processes for their electric bicycle batteries. Lime is another e-bike company that recently announced a partnership that would see some batteries no longer fit for use in e-bikes wedged into Bluetooth speakers. Even so, considering the amount of e-bike purchased during the pandemic, manufacturers will have to think of more comprehensive plans to deal with the resulting electronic waste.