The automotive giant has announced a new recycling process to extract earth metals.
On the whole, hybrids are better for the environment. They use fewer fossil fuels and energy, they have much lower emissions, and they tend to be more efficient. Despite all of this, they aren’t completely “green.”
But Honda is moving them one step closer.
Surprisingly, one of the least eco-friendly aspects of a hybrid is the battery. While useful in maximizing energy use, battery creation is a highly intensive process and battery disposal is a substantial environmental problem.
Recently, however, Honda announced a new recycling process that is the first of its kind (according to Honda internal research) to reuse components of hybrid batteries, and subsequently aid in disposal and conservation.
The new process, which is being undertaken at the Japan Metals & Chemicals Co. plant, extracts rare metals like Lanthanum from old nickel-metal hydride batteries (hybrid batteries) for use in new nickel-metal hydride batteries. By applying molten salt electrolysis to an oxide extracted from old hybrid batteries, Honda will be able to extract rare earth metals that can be used in the negative electrode of a new battery.
The process yields rare earth metals that have a purity of 99% – comparable to newly mined and refined minerals – and can account for upwards of 80% of the rare earth metals required for a new nickel-metal hydride battery (thus reducing the need to mine new metals).
The initial run of recycled batteries came from nearly 400 Honda hybrids that were rendered unusable by the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the company aims to apply the same process to batteries collected by dealers through routine replacements.
The process, which should be in its early stages of rollout, would not only help safely dispose of old battery components but also help conserve the environment through reduced mining processes. “Green” just got greener.