• Nov 9th 2009 at 6:08PM
  • 20
A big piece of the end-of-life plan for lithium batteries is recycling and there is only one place in North America currently capable of carrying out that procedure. That facility, owned and operated by Toxco Waste Management in southeastern British Columbia, experienced a large fire last Saturday after suffering through a series of explosions. The event, which happened after-hours, seems to have started in a lithium storage building and created an impressive fireworks display for about 45 minutes. No one was hurt and the main facility remained unscathed, though firefighters at the scene couldn't use their hoses to put out the lithium-fire since it is reactive to water. Officials reportedly were told the explosions produced sulphur dioxide and lithium hydroxide emissions. A statement on Toxco's website addressing the incident says, "The fire did not result in any negative impacts to the environment of the surrounding area." British Columbia Environment Ministry officials have visited the site to make their own assessment.

Lithium batteries from across the US and Canada, mostly from phones and laptops, are stored at the site in earth-covered bunkers chilled to -324 degrees. The low temperature is supposed to make the chemicals inert and prevent incidents like this from happening. The exact cause of the fire is under investigation though arson is not suspected. Toxco, which has a recycling agreement with Tesla Motors, has plans to add lithium battery recycling to their pre-existing facility in Ohio. Thanks to Jeff for the tip!

[Source: The Globe and Mail / Vancouver Sun]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      I think its important to remember that there is a difference between Li-Ion batteries used in future EVs and Lithium Metal batteries, which were probably the culprit in this case. Li-Ion does not contain pure Lithium, it is an alloy metal and therefore much less reactive.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Imagine if there was a couple spectacular Volt fires soon after the release of the car.
      It could be the Hindenburg of electric cars. There's a 17 second video here. http://www.theprovince.com/news/bc/index.html

      not necessarily worth sitting through the commercial to see it though
        • 8 Months Ago
        Of course people will ignore the multiple gasoline fires that happen every year. I'm pretty sure just one fire will be enough to get people to start making a big deal. Luckily all of the manufacturers are taking safety seriously and they have various fail-safes to prevent accidents.
      • 8 Months Ago
      How long before the anti-plug-in people use this as for more FUD against plug-ins?
      • 8 Months Ago
      So something went wrong at the first and only recycling facility available huh? Couldn't have seen that one coming. Kudos to them for pioneering the industry though. That gets them major brownie points.
        • 8 Months Ago
        They might reconsider the name "Toxco", though. Recycling lithium batteries will be a very hazardous part of the EV industry, but every industry has its dark side.

        I'll bet it was a pretty cool display to watch.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Fahrenheit just doesn't work for me for cryo temperatures...

      -324F is 75 Kelvin, or -197C, or a few degrees below the temperature where nitrogen liquefies at normal pressure.

      Seems like it takes quite a bit of energy to safely (or not, in this case) store a lithium battery for recycling. There must be a better way...
        • 8 Months Ago
        A dry, inert gas atmosphere would be equally safe and probably cheaper to maintain. Looks like more research is needed on safe Lithium and Sodium battery recycling.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Will it raise the price of lithium-ion batteries and what will happen to this only recycling lithium-ion batteries plant into the world ?
        • 8 Months Ago
        As I read the articles, the fire occurred in a storage facility not in the processing plant. The company will continue to operate and manage batteries. The cause is still under investigation, but they suspect that a battery may have short circuited in the storage building and started the fire.

      • 8 Months Ago
      A guy in my hometown was filling a gasoline can at an Exxon station when it somehow caught fire. His burns were fatal.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Maybe some of the Li got wet.

      I'm glad xuchaoxio is able to share his opinion, though.
      Seriously, when is something going to be done about this spam?
      Just filtering out messages with "$$$$$$$$$$$" would help.
      • 8 Months Ago
      This is so unrelated to EVs it's not even funny.
      Seeing as EV li-ion batteries will be retired from vehicles when their DOD reaches 80% after a decade, the end-of-life plan for EV li-ion battery packs is a second life in grid power storage.
      THAT'S what is meant by recycling EV batteries, selling them on for a few more decades use, not sticking them in a grinder!
        • 8 Months Ago
        Paul, a second life is a given for automotive li-ion batteries, but no matter what, those batteries will one day be more or less useless.

        This is from Tesla's blog on battery recycling (google it):

        "For example, the ESS could be used as a power source for off-grid backup or load leveling. The battery requirements for such an application are not as demanding as a high performance vehicle battery. This being said, eventually the batteries will no longer hold a significant charge and will need to be disposed of.

        For this reason, we have been working closely with Kinsbursky Brothers, Inc.(KBI)/Toxco to implement a recycling plan."

        The number one EV producer in North America just clearly pointed out that this specific plant is very relevant to EVs.
      • 8 Months Ago
      o.k i won't buy any battery gadjet because it cost a lot and in the short future they will charge money to recycle the battery that should last only 2-3 years in my opinion because a battery is not meant to work in power mode, battery are just low-power electrical back-up.

      Now i want some articles and real prototype of hydrostatics 130 mpg+ cars and light trucks. Don't harass me anymore with stupid batteries.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I found one film about it. This is 10x better then a battery, it last 30+ years, easy recycling, not affected by power draw, cold and heat and endless operation, easilly rechargeable at home with simple home machinery. Better breaking, lower cost at buying and for operation, better reliability.

      • 8 Months Ago
      Just another scam by big lithium.
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