For many components of hybrid cars, recycling is the same as with their non-hybrid counterparts. The metal body is reprocessed into steel, tires are shredded into crumb rubber or burned for fuel, even the windshield can be recycled into insulation and concrete.
But the hybrid car battery is a whole different story. While traditional vehicles use lead-acid batteries, hybrid cars typically also incorporate a separate nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery to generate electric power.
No. 1 hybrid vehicle manufacturer ,Toyota, announced the launch of the world’s first recycling business for NiMH car batteries. The program will recover the nickel in order to make new batteries, while also lowering the production cost of future hybrid batteries.
The Toyota HV Call Center will be a resource for consumers to find out where to take their non-working batteries. It will also be constructing several recycling facilities with the help of Toyota Chemical Engineering.
The timing of the consumer-facing recycling program is timely in that Prius offers a 8-10 year warranty on its batteries, and the first model wasn’t released until 2000. The company estimates that the batteries last up to 180,000 miles and has offered a recycling program in Japan since 1998.
In the U.S., the lead-acid car battery is a highly recycled material, with a 99.2 percent recycling rate in 2008, according to the EPA. This can be partly attributed to state legislation, as 41 states have banned these batteries from landfills and nine have deposit systems that help pay for recycling at point-of-purchase. Many retailers will also accept old batteries when a new one is purchased.
As a result, many car batteries sold in the U.S. have a large portion of recycled content, including both lead and the plastic casing.
Toyota has not yet announced if it will accept NiMH batteries from other vehicle brands.