Unternehmen&Trends Digitalausgabe 01/2022

30 Industrial history is full of developments, processes and products that were initially celebrated as innovative and progressive, but whose success was ultimately thwarted by the unresolved issue of disposal. The following examples illustrate this: In the mid-1980s, the PET bottle was still seen as the environmentally friendly and lightweight alternative to the glass bottle, but this view has changed significantly in the meantime. It is true that PET bottles are almost 100 per cent recycled, especially in countries with returnable deposit systems. But in Third World countries, where residual waste disposal of light materials often takes place via rivers, thousands and thousands of tonnes of PET bottles are washed into the oceans as plastic waste and destroy or endanger beaches as well as water quality and fish stocks. Probably the most prominent example of industrial and energy processes that have not been thought through to the end is the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In Germany, at least, it failed to achieve final success in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 because of the apparently uncontrollable risk potential of the process. But the political discussion about the expansion of nuclear energy was dominated for years by the question “Where to put the nuclear waste?”, which was never answered satisfactorily. The problem of disposing of drive batteries that can no longer be used in electric vehicles is not yet threateningly topical as a mass or quantity phenomenon in view of the novelty of this drive technology. But the question will inevitably arise in the foreseeable future. Even if we are currently talking about “only” about one million newly registered electric or hybrid vehicles per year in Germany, one must bear in mind that the number of Where to put it – are we facing a disposal problem with old e-car batteries? By Armin Gehl, Managing Director of autoregion e.V., Saarbrücken While the promotion of hydrogen and synthetic fuels increasingly threatens to be overshadowed by transport policy activities in the transformation process from fossil fuels to climate-friendly or CO2-neutral alternatives, the triumph of the battery-electric drive seems unbroken. Contrary to the general trend, new registrations of electric cars in Germany rose by 83 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year – and this despite supply bottlenecks for electronic components and resulting production delays. However, the entirely justified euphoria about this increase is dampened when attention is drawn to the still unsatisfactorily solved problem of disposing of battery units that are no longer usable. Are we threatened by mountains of old batteries that can no longer be used? Image: © autoregion e.V. vehicles with battery units will increase exponentially. The fact that the number of electric vehicles worldwide has increased fifty-fold since 2012 may serve as an indication of this. Against this backdrop, one gets the impression that neither the manufacturers nor the industry nor the politicians are prepared for this development with appropriate – even large-scale – solution concepts. The all-important success question is: “Where to put automotive e-waste?” Up to now, an average service life of eight to ten years has been assumed for e-car batteries. This is based on the assumption of approximately 500 to 1.000 charging processes, Armin Gehl, Managing Director of the association autoregion e.V.