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Ni/MH = nickel/metal hydride, VRLA = valve-regulated lead-acid, Na/NiCl2 = sodium/nickel chloride, Li-ion = lithium-ion, Li polymer = lithiumpolymer

Ni/MH = nickel/metal hydride, VRLA = valve-regulated lead-acid, Na/NiCl2 = sodium/nickel chloride, Li-ion = lithium-ion, Li polymer = lithiumpolymer

Fig. 2. GM Ovonic Ni/MH Battery for the Chevrolet S10 Pickup Truck.
Fig.4. DaimlerChrysler Epic Minivan Advanced Lead-Acid Battery.
Fig. 6. Nissan Altra EV Li-Ion Battery Module
Fig.7. Second Generation Toyota Prius Ni/MH Battery Pack.

The types of batteries predominantly in use at this point are lead-acid and Ni/MH, although a few lithium-ion (Li-ion) systems are starting to appear. As the number of HEVs increases in the near term, the number of Ni/MH systems is also expected to increase. It is the standard energy storage unit in the later models of the GM EV1. Nickel/metal hydride batteries are also used in Ford Ranger and DaimlerChrysler EPIC EVs and in the Toyota and Honda HEVs. However, a niche market for lead-acid systems is likely to remain for lower cost EVs used for commuting short distances. Lithium-ion batteries are used in the Nissan Altra EV, but their use has not expanded as significantly to date as has the Ni/MH battery system. Although Ni/MH systems appear to offer the best prospects for near-term implementation in spite of high costs, Li-ion or lithium-polymer may eventually provide better performance with a lower battery weight. This assumes questions regarding safety issues associated with the reactivity of lithium and life expectancy issues can be resolved satisfactorily. In the long term, lithium batteries may therefore replace Ni/MH as lithium battery costs are reduced and performance improves.

Safer versions of the lithium battery such as lithium-polymer are also being developed and are already available in small cells. Other battery chemistries (e.g., sodium/nickel chloride (Na/NiCl2), nickel/zinc (Ni/Zn)) may be found in small numbers, but will probably not be dominant factors in the market over the next 5 to 10 years. Fuel cells are another type of power source that may find increased use in alternative-fuel vehicles in the future, but will not be commercially available in automobiles for several years.

Growth of the EV market is a key factor that will determine which power sources are available for recycling over the next 10 to 15 years. The onset of the anticipated exponential growth in the number of EV/HEVs on the road has proved difficult to predict, and this has made developers and recyclers reluctant to invest in establishing dedicated recycling facilities. The changing mix of power sources over time could render a dedicated recycling process obsolete before a significant increase in the number of vehicles occurs. An approach that uses an existing recycling process that is not solely dependent on the EV battery waste stream has been the primary strategy used thus far. However, these processes are not always able to reclaim all of the valuable battery materials.

Projections of the number of EVs that will be sold in the U.S. vary considerably depending on the source. An EV population in the U.S. of several hundred thousand has been predicted to occur within a few years ever since the mid-1990s [6]. In 1997, one estimate for 2005 totaled 320,000 vehicles, based on ZEV-mandated programs in California and other states [7], More recent projections, however, estimate 50,000 EVs per year starting in 2005. This lower projection reflects vehicle estimates resulting from the California Memoranda of Agreement Program, as well as a court decision precluding other states from implementing ZEV programs more restrictive than that in California. Early in the year 2000, the actual EV population in California, the state with the most active ZEV program, was 2300 [8]. The total EV population in the U.S. was about 5,000 late in the year 2000 according to the Electric Vehicle Association of the Americas. This situation may begin to change soon because the ZEV program in place in California in late 2000 requires about 22,000 EVs to be offered for sale by 2003. In addition, the commercial introduction of HEVs by Toyota and Honda could add substantially to these numbers if they become popular. Honda increased the number of Insight vehicles that would be made available for sale in the year 2000 to 6500 based on strong early demand [9]. Clearly, however, an EV population of several hundred thousand in the U.S. is still years away and more time will elapse before the batteries in those vehicles reach end-of-life. Incentives to commit resources toward development of dedicated recycling facilities will therefore likely remain low for some time.

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