Auto Recycling World spoke to Catherine Lenearts, Managing Director of Febelauto and CEO of Watt4ever, about the progress of electric vehicle recycling and reuse in Belgium.
The automotive sector in Belgium recently signed an agreement in the Walloon region of Belgium for traction batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. What does this mean for Febelauto, and how electric vehicles will be recycled in the country?
Febelauto is now covering the whole Belgian territory as PRO (producer responsibility organization) for batteries of electric and hybrid cars, and this is a scoop for Belgium: we are the only organization that covers the three regions in Belgium. We are operational and collect batteries in safe conditions. We test the batteries, and if second life is possible and allowed by the car importer/producer, we give them second life via another company, Watt4Ever. Last year, we provided a second life to more than 50% of EV batteries in Belgium. The batteries are transformed into circular energy storage systems.
In 2021, more than 50% of EV batteries in Belgium were given a second life
You are very much involved in the circularity of EV batteries and are a founding member of Watt4Ever, a company making circular energy storage systems. Can you explain more about this organisation, why it was formed, who is involved, and what skills they bring?
We were looking for a good second life solution for discarded batteries of electric vehicles. We had no solution nearby, so we started looking for partners to establish our own solution. The rest is a matter of organic growth: Watt4Ever is a company founded by five partners: Febelauto, Out of use, Eco-lithium, Revolta and Shence Management, and all of them have specific knowledge in the process from discarded batteries of electric vehicles, dismantling the batteries, testing and certifying them, reassembly of the batteries in our circular energy storage systems, delivering and installing at the customer site including an optimization of the customer’s energy consumption.
How has this initiative developed, and have you seen a growth in the need for such solutions?
You have from one side the need for a solution for the growing number of discarded batteries of electric vehicles. On the other side, you have a need for affordable energy storage systems for power back-up, for better auto consumption of your produced renewable energy or even for grid services to balance the electricity grid. We jumped on this opportunity to make the match between those needs. Both needs are rapidly growing. Batteries serve the first ten years in the electric vehicle and get a second life for another ten years as a circular energy storage system. This makes the environmental footprint of e-mobility even better.
What is encouraging is seeing how these various organisations have come to Watt4Ever, and the part vehicle recyclers play when recycling EVs. How do you envisage the role of auto recyclers evolving as we enter the electric vehicle age, and how are you preparing for this?
In Belgium, there are five authorized treatment facilities + (the + stands for ‘allowed and equipped to treat hybrid and electrical vehicles’). It is very important that the employees of the ATF+ are very well trained to safely remove the battery from the ELV. Safe storage, transport and packaging are also listed in our Febelauto norms ©.
Also, we recently made a one-pager for take-back points and dealers with the most important guidelines for battery handling.
It seems that you are well set and prepared for when EVs start to enter yards to be reused and recycled; however, it can be argued that many auto recyclers are not as prepared as you. Do you think there is a lack of education and awareness regarding EV recycling and how the industry is fast approaching needing to create facilities to process such vehicles?
We believe that all ATFs and auto recyclers will have to add the EV into their business sooner or later, and the only way to do so is by informing and training their staff to avoid the risks of high voltage injuries. It is also absolutely necessary to create awareness to prevent all accidents and fires. This is why we developed our Febelauto norms© and the ATF+ concept.