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What happens to dead e-bike batteries? Eurobike plans a discussion on that topic

Published July 8, 2019

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — E-bike sales are exploding in Europe, and in Germany in particular, where retailers sold almost a million units last year according to German Cycle Industry Association.

At Eurobike in September, an event is being scheduled to discuss the life span of e-bike battery packs and what should be done with old batteries. 

"The sharp growth in e-mobility means that the recycling and disposal of spent lithium-ion battery packs is becoming an increasingly important issue," the show organizers said. "A battery of this kind delivers its full output for a period of between two and five years — depending on the charge cycles and kilometers traveled. Then it gradually loses its power.

The show noted that electric lawn mowers and screwdrivers continue to produce far more dead batteries than e-bikes. But experts assume that the number coming from vehicles such as bicycles and scooters will soon overtake this figure.

Retailer Thorsten Larschow, who runs a shop in Cuxhaven, Germany, said many of his customers whose battery pack no longer delivers full output buy a new one and keep the old one as a reserve. He said high quality manufacturers like Panasonic, Yamaha and Bosch provide replacement batteries for all models. He lithium-ion batteries that are faulty or too weak to use are disposed of through Germany's Joint Battery Returns System. Disposal in household waste is prohibited in Germany.

Just under 80% of all e-bike producers are registered with GRS, a service company headquartered in Hamburg. GRS breaks open the batteries and extracts valuable raw materials from them. It is able to recycle 50-70% of the contents of e-bike batteries; the rest is disposed of in what GRS calls an "environmentally sound manner." The program reportedly has yet to reach break-even point.

Besides recycling, there are mixed opinions about the viability of reusing e-bike battery cells from e-bikes. Using tired batteries as storage for solar power, for example, might be practical for large car batteries, but bike batteries are too small for that to make sense, some say.

However, a German company, Emina HT works with manufacturers from all over Europe to repair and re-use batteries. And other European brands are working on replacement batteries that work with different drive systems. And another group, Extra Energy, is trying to standardize batteries and chargers across brands. These companies and others are expected to participate in the Eurobike discussion.

Eurobike is Sept. 4-6 for trade, with the consumer Eurobike Festival Day on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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