An ebike is the most efficient way to travel and reduce your climate impact. With more than 300 million ebikes on the road globally as of 2023, a wave of battery replacements. When it’s time to replace an e-bike battery, you can help reduce the need for new lithium and other minerals extraction by recycling responsibly.
Understanding E-Bike Batteries
E-bike batteries are typically made from lithium-ion or lithium-polymer cells. However, some ebike are based on the lead-acid chemistry used in automobiles. Lithium-based batteries have a lifespan of about 1,000 charges. In contrast, lead-acid batteries may last only 300 charge cycles — both types will eventually require responsible disposal. Many states forbid both kinds of batteries from their landfills.
Do not dispose of e-bike batteries in regular trash or recycling bins. Follow the specific guidelines provided by recycling programs or facilities for safe disposal.
Why Recycling E-Bike Batteries is Important
E-bike batteries contain materials like cobalt, graphite, and lithium, which can harm the environment and cause cancer and neurological harm if not disposed of properly. These materials can leach into groundwater and soil, posing a significant threat to wildlife and humans.
Recycling e-bike batteries allows the recovery and reuse of valuable materials, reducing the need for new raw materials and minimizing your environmental footprint. It’s estimated that the world will need to produce two to four times as much lithium by 2030 to support the transition away from fossil fuels. Recycled batteries could provide much of that required lithium while reducing the massive amounts of water used to refine raw lithium.
How to Recycle E-Bike Batteries
- Recognizing an End of Battery Life: Look for signs of aging, such as decreased performance, longer charge times, and fast-draining of a charge. Each of these symptoms indicate that the battery is nearing the end of its useful lifespan.
- Finding a Recycling Center: Use resources like Earth911’s Locator or Call2Recycle to find local e-bike battery recycling drop-off locations near you.
- Manufacturer and Retailer Programs: Many e-bike manufacturers and retailers participate in recycling programs. You can drop off old batteries at the bike store where you bought your ebike. Brands including Giant, Trek, and Specialized support battery recycling through the industry-wide Hungry For Batteries recycling program run by Call2Recycle.org. Check if your e-bike’s brand offers such a program.
- Mail-in Programs: If you cannot visit a local drop-off site, Call2Recycle also provides ebike battery mail-in boxes for a fee, including packaging for damaged or swollen lithium batteries that can cause fires in transit. Damaged batteries can be ground-shipped, but sending them via air freight is prohibited.
- Safe Disposal Practices: If the battery is in good condition, you can drop it off unpackaged. Ebike retailers participating in the Hungry For Batteries program are trained to handle intact batteries. If your battery is damaged, call ahead to the location to see if they will take it. Avoid skin contact with the battery materials and pack the damaged battery in a non-flammable material to reduce the chances of a fire.
Maintenance Can Prolong Battery Life
Proper maintenance can extend the life of your e-bike battery, delaying the need for recycling. When you first get a new battery, take the time to charge it fully before using it.
Once up and running with a new battery, store it or your bike in a space heated to between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid charging the battery to full capacity if you don’t plan to ride it immediately, which helps maintain its efficiency and longevity.
Recycling e-bike batteries is an essential step toward sustainable e-bike usage. By following the guidelines for proper disposal and participating in recycling programs, you contribute to environmental protection and the responsible use of resources. Remember to maintain your battery well to extend its life and reduce waste.