The shocking truth

By Lindsey Cooke

Toronto, Ontario — February 26, 2019 — If Transport Canada is right, then there will be more than seven million electric vehicles (EVs) on the nation’s roads by the end of the next decade. With much more of a benefit to the environment, these vehicles could enliven the auto recycling industry.

But where there is value, there is also great danger. A standard vehicle contains a lead-acid battery, but electric vehicles—both hybrid or fully electric ones—use lithium-ion batteries.

“There are a number of risks in terms of the EVs, which include, electrocution, the risk of a fire and chemical risks,” says British auto recycler and managing director of Salvage Wire Andy Latham, who has been studying EV recycling for the past five years. EV batteries are much heavier and more powerful than those used in gas-powered vehicles. Where a standard vehicle battery weighs less than 100 lbs (45 kg) and issues a 12.6-volt current, electric vehicle batteries can weigh up to 1,200 lbs (500 kg) at 200 volts. The difference in strength can be a matter of life and death, as a 60-volt current can be fatal. As battery designs become more efficient, the dangers are going to worsen—800-volt car batteries will make their debut to the public this year.

Latham mentioned that when he traveled to the U.S., he visited a couple of different auto recycling yards, where he witnessed auto recyclers removing high-voltage batteries from vehicles that were live.

“That could have caused a fatal electric shock,” he says. “Not having the right training is a massive issue right now for auto recyclers.”

As a result, Latham has been traveling across the globe to get the message across and raise awareness to auto recyclers about the training and procedures that need to be followed when handling a high-voltage battery.

While Latham is still concerned about continued ignorance of the dangers, in Canada there is at least some awareness of the issue, with regulations put in place preventing the dismantling of a high-voltage battery without a license.


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