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Earth Power Transportation Technology

Environmental Cost of Hybrids' Battery Recycling? 520

Posted by timothy
from the they're-good-for-bludgeoning-seals dept.
LostMyBeaver writes "I have been considering the purchase of an electric or hybrid vehicle for some time. The biggest problem I have currently is that both technologies make use of rechargable batteries. The same tree-huggers telling me gasoline is bad are telling me that batteries are bad too. I'm only partially knowledgable in this area, but it appears the battery technologies are generally based at least on lithium ion, nickel metal hydride, lead acid and nickel-cadmium. I was hoping someone on Slashdot would be knowledgable enough to explain the environmental cost of recycling these batteries. If I understand correctly, after these chemicals are 'spent' so the cells no longer maintain a charge, they are not useful for producing new batteries. I can only imagine that the most common method of recycling the cells is to store the toxic chemicals of the batteries in barrels and refilling the cells with new chemicals. This sounds like an environmental disaster to me. Is there someone here that can help me sleep better at night by explaining what really happens?"
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Environmental Cost of Hybrids' Battery Recycling?

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  • Re:Google Much? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:30PM (#24937983)

    Life is toxic. Get used to it or get over it (life that is.)

  • Re:Google Much? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by snl2587 (1177409) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:34PM (#24938049)

    I've got a few stinkers that stopped holding their charge after only about a dozen cycles of light duty operation.

    Of course. Battery manufacturers bank on people buying replacement batteries, and since so many people misplace rechargeables long before they go bad or simply do not realize they are supposed to recharge hundreds of times, there is no incentive to produce a better product (except in the precision/high-tech market, but that's a different story). Toyota would likely do the same if they entered the AA market.

    People would certainly take notice if their cars only went 1000 miles before they crapped out.

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:34PM (#24938051)

    Your right.

    I will go back to believing that Corporations have my best interest in mind(more so then myself) and just accept everything they tell me as gospel.

    All sarcasm aside, even if carbon dioxide accumulation were NOT harmful, our dependence on foreign petroleum IS. The only reason 100% recycling doesn't work is because some people are too fucking lazy to do their part. Thus, Toyota putting a $200 bounty on their batteries is a great idea. Give the lazy bastards a REASON to help.

    Many states and municipalities did precisely the same thing with beverage bottles/cans. Try finding a Coke bottle in the streets of Los Angeles. You can't, because that 5 cent refund makes it worthwhile to pick the damn thing up. Maybe not to you, but certainly to someone.

  • by BigJClark (1226554) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:34PM (#24938053)

    Because going hybrid is going to make all cars instantaneous 100% reliable and breakdown free.
  • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:35PM (#24938057) Homepage Journal
    Time to find a new mechanic. Anybody that would try to spread that load of horseshit is likely to have no problem charging you for refilling your muffler fluid and changing your starter belt.
  • Re:$200 bounty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:37PM (#24938083)

    Thankfully, those batteries are heavy, and located in hard to reach places. The batteries in the latest Prius weigh 45 Kgs and are located in the trunk of the car, partially underneath the back seat.

    I don't see anyone spending a good 30 minutes tearing open the Prius with powertools, only to run around with a 100+lb weight. At that point, they might as well steal the entire car.

  • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:38PM (#24938097) Homepage

    His mechanic doesn't want to re-tool and re-skill. The former is about money, the latter about either laziness or exhaustion.

  • by captaindomon (870655) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:40PM (#24938127)
    I was going to post a very similiar response, but now I don't have to. The parent post is right on. I care about the planet and want to make sure we can live on it far into the future, so I try to be responsible. But the only thing that will make most environmentalists happy is to wander around in the forest naked, eating raw vegetables. There are some very good environmentalists, but in my experience, most of them are just wacko sensationalists that want or need attention.
  • Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:43PM (#24938161)
    What we all need to understand is regardless of the technology we use, we will always leave some sort of pollution and some sort environmental impact. The answers we should be looking for is how to minimize them; which is stated in the parent's post, and not to discard any technology because it's not perfect. Because if we sit around looking for the no-impact, no-footprint, no environmental harm solution, we'll just sit here burning our fossil fuels eventually doing more harm in the long run than we would ever have done by trying some other technologies.

    I'm for a portfolio of changes. Meaning, not one silver bullet (nuclear, wind, solar, geo, tidal, fat people on Stair Masters, etc...), but for the use of all - smartly of course. Just because a technology doesn't make sense now doesn't mean it won't in the future.

  • Buy a bicycle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GRW (63655) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:50PM (#24938229) Homepage Journal
    You can avoid the whole moral dilemma by buying yourself a good bicycle and/or using public transit. It works for me.
  • Re:$200 bounty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:07PM (#24938435)

    Hard to reach as in it needs more effort than to pry open the hood, disconnect the terminals and lift out the battery. Sometimes, it's good when things are hard. I'd like a $200 item in my car to be fairly difficult to get to if I don't provide keys and a proper garage.

  • Re:DIESEL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:26PM (#24938763) Journal
    Here is another article that I came across today regarding a Ford diesel that they are only going to sell in Europe. They are claiming 65mpg. It's ridiculous that they won't offer this thing in the United States. I wonder who the hell does their market research for them. Americans will buy huge turbo diesel trucks that crappy gas mileage but they won't spend an extra $1500 for a 65mpg Ford diesel because it isn't a big enough improvement over a ~45mpg Toyota Prius to justify the extra $1500?! [] Right now I drive a 1992 Volvo that gets ~25mpg. I put regular 87 octane in it. If I had a car that got twice as many miles per gallon, I could suck it up and spend the extra 30 cents per gallon when I fill it up.
  • Re:mufflers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skynyrd (25155) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:40PM (#24938915) Homepage

    Are you thinking of catalytic converts? Mufflers generally are not made from things other than stainless steel, steel and aluminum. CCs, on the other hand, have expensive internals.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:45PM (#24938981)

    I've heard that pretty soon we will have cars that run on love.

    Which is a darn shame, because love is so very hard to produce.

    What we really need is cars that run on boredom.

  • Re:Google Much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:48PM (#24939029)

    Ah, but that's why you have to read what they actually said. It states quite clearly:

    they have not replaces a single battery for wear and tear.

    Your "stinkers" would be considered a manufacturing defect, so even if they replace 5,000,000 crappy batteries every year, their statement would still technically be correct.

    Sneaky bastards ....

  • Re:Google Much? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by krazytekn0 (1069802) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:02PM (#24939189) Homepage Journal
    On a side note, why are we still happy with anything less than 50 mpg? I have a car from the 80's that gets that (42-45) and it's a pickup truck that weighs more than a prius/civic/whatever hybrid little car.

    Why aren't we building hybrids with diesel engines? Do the car companies want us to believe that 50 MPG is some mythical cap on efficiency?
  • Re:$200 bounty (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:05PM (#24939225)

    Does each car have more than one? It wasn't clear from the context, since he called it "the Prius" and "the latest Prius" (seeming to refer to the whole model line) rather than "a late-model Prius," etc.

    Posting AC since obviously a mod here has an axe to grind

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@ya h o> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:14PM (#24939349)

    I've never seen someone excited about their vehicle being hard to service before.

    That's something that pissed me off about my 2000 car. I used to change oil and filters and repair my own vehicles. But when I wanted to change oil in the new car, this was in 2001, the repair manual for the car said specialized tools were needed to remove the plug and filter. I could see paying $10 for the filter remover but when I checked on the price of this new one it was a lot more than that. So was the tool for the plug, and it only had the one use. Heck, every tool I used to rebuild engines, other than the oil filter tool, in older vehicles had more than one use. There was only one thing I couldn't do myself, I had to take my engine block to a machine shop to have the cylinders bored out.


  • Re:Car's Battery (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tobiah (308208) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:31PM (#24939539)

    Now that's a well supported reply.

    Side note reply: 12V battery still is unlikely to kill, the voltage is too low to get past skin resistance. 330V will definitely flow, and it only takes 100mA or so to stop the heart, so 6.5A is literally overkill.

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@ya h o> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:39PM (#24939639)

    I did.

    mufflers are pretty much worthless

    They're worth more than that. It takes less energy and money to recycle the metal than it does to mine ore and refine it to make new metal.


  • by gsgriffin (1195771) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:57PM (#24939851)
    The original question had to do with the real benefit of these cars. We got off to the wrong start with the whole stupid idea of stealing them. Whatever!!! What about the polution it takes to generate the electricity (public power plants) to charge the cars. Assuming the person isn't using their own power generation, how much more electricity will we need to power a country of these cars and what will the pollution cost be. I remember hearing something once about the washing of diapers causing more environmental problems that disposable too.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @11:31PM (#24942093)

    Even after revising the 1985-2007 mpg estimates to make them comparable to the new 2008 mpg estimates, the 1989 Honda CRX-HF is rated at 41 city and 50 highway mpg. []

    After 20 years of technological innovation, and four years of sky-rocketing fuel costs, shouldn't a new car model get at least 41/50 mpg before that car is considered to be ecologically friendly? Yet features the 2008 Nissan Rouge (22 city/27 highway mpg) as a "Top 2008 Fuel Economy Faves." The 2008 Nissan Rouge also has a sticker price of $19,250. []

    Seems to me that true economy cars been pulled from the market, and replaces with the new hybrids. Major car manufacturers want us to think that 30+ mpg is something miraculous, and requires an expensive, heavy, complicated, hard-to-maintain, hybrid.

    In my opinion there is more to ecological friendliness than just mpg (although the present line-up fails at even that). Hybrids have huge batteries, and disposing of those batteries is never ecologically friendly. Then there is the ecological impact of manufacturing and shipping these huge, heavy, vehicles. Furthermore, recent road tests carried out by Auto Express show that hybrids often have worse CO2 emissions than standard autos. []

    To have a real impact on fuel consumption, and emissions, new vehicles need to be affordable. Hybrids are about the most expensive vehicles on the market. How can hybrids have a positive effect of the environment, if practically nobody can afford the beasts? Even if you can afford the steep sticker price, what about the cost of maintenance? Hybrids have two engines, and use a complicated system to charge their huge batteries. I hate to even think about the cost of maintenance and repair.

    It used to be common that most fuel efficient cars also had the lowest sticker price, and lowest maintenance costs. The cars where simply smaller, lighter, and required more manual operations. With smaller, cheaper, parts, and a less complicated design, the cars were cheaper to maintain. When I bought my 1992 Ford Festiva, the 30/37 mpg rating was the least of my criteria, I was also concerned with sticker price, and maintenance costs.

    Why can't we do as well now, as we did 16 to 35 years ago?

    1973 Honda Civic rated 35/40 mpg
    1986 VW Golf Diesel rated 31/40 mpg *
    1989 Geo Metro rated 43/51 mpg
    1989 Honda CRX-HF rated 41/50 mpg
    1992 Ford Festiva rated 30/37 mpg

    * I got over 50mpg driving from Florida to New Jersey, while running the air conditioner.


    57 mpg? That's so 20 years ago
    Want to drive a cheap car that gets eye-popping mileage? In 1987 you could - and it wasn't even a hybrid. []

    Efficiency? Think Racing Cars, Not Hybridso
    A renowned racing car designer has said that car manufacturers should be looking at making cars lighter to improve efficiency, rather than adding complex drive trains. []

    Hot Cars Best Gas Milage
    Welcome to We are automotive enthusiasts and travel aficionados who also love the environment. We appreciate both form and function, all while striving to leave future generations a legacy of clean air, scenic grandeur and a continuum of natural resources. In addition: the freedom to drive. []

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @11:19AM (#24947207) Homepage Journal
    That stuff about the current following the path of least resistance and flowing along the skin is actually only for high-frequency AC as from a Tesla coil, not DC as from a 12-volt battery. And then it's impedance, not resistance.

    Professionals don't wear rings because those 12-volt terminals are connected to wires, and in various places along the circuit the two connections are brought quite close to each other.

    This is serious stuff, be careful not to misinform lest others hurt themselves.

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.