E-bikes have long since become part
of everyday life on German roads. Whether for leisure, for commuting to work, as
sporting equipment or as an alternative for goods transport in our congested
cities, the e-bike offers attractive solutions for many areas of life. E-bikes are top-sellers and the motor driving the Germany
cycle industry. This raises the question of what to do with the old
battery packs. And It is also set to become a discussion topic at
EUROBIKE, which is taking place in Friedrichshafen from 4 to 7 September.
In 2018, just under 24 per cent of bicycles
purchased in Germany were electrically powered. According to details provided by the German Cycle
Industry Association (ZIV), retailers sold a total of 980,000 models last year.
Almost one in four of all new
bicycles sold is therefore fitted with a rechargeable battery.
The sharp growth in e-mobility
means that the recycling and disposal of spent lithium-ion battery packs is
becoming an increasingly important issue. A battery of this kind delivers its full output for a
period of between two and five years – depending on the charge cycles and
kilometres travelled. Then it gradually loses its power.
The greatest proportion still comes
from lawnmowers, portable screwdrivers and the like. However, 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 and is represented at EUROBIKE, thinks that in the near
future almost everyone in the industrialized countries will own an e-bike.
“In my view, the boom has yet to
really take off.” Many
of his customers whose battery pack no longer delivers the full output buy a
new one and keep the old one as a reserve. “High-quality manufacturers, like Panasonic, Yamaha
and Bosch, continue to offer all models”, Larschow reports.
On the other hand, lithium-ion
batteries that are faulty or considered to be too weak by the consumer end up
in what is known as the Joint Battery Returns System (GRS).
Their disposal in household waste
Just under 80 per cent of all
e-bike producers are registered with this service company headquartered in
Hamburg, which organizes the complete collection and recycling of batteries.
In other words, these firms have
undertaken to collect the old batteries through their specialist dealers and
return them to the service company. “We then break them open and extract valuable raw
materials”, explains Christian Henkmann from the distribution department.
For e-bike batteries, the
recyclability of the individual constituents currently lies between 50 and 70
per cent. “GRS
then disposes of the rest in a proper and environmentally sound manner.”
According to Henkmann, the industry
is primarily interested in valuable raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and
even the stainless steel case, the plastic parts and the cables are recycled.
However, the entire scheme has yet
to reach break-even point, as the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes.
And what are the prospects of a
second life for battery cells from discarded e-bike battery packs?
Christian Henkmann considers it
reutilization in storage plants for regenerative energies – such as solar power
– only makes sense with large car batteries”, says Henkmann.
The twelve volts of a bicycle
battery would provide far too little capacity for a power storage plant.
“That would be just about enough to
operate a small fan.”
Nor do the experts from GRS rate
refresher firms that repair faulty batteries highly. “If the battery then goes on to catch fire, no
manufacturer is going to continue providing a guarantee”, adds Henkmann as food
for thought. Managing
Director Yuqian Sun of Emina HT in the southern German town of Westhausen takes
a different view. Her
company wants to conserve natural resources, and its specialist services
therefore include the repair of bicycle battery packs. According to her information, Emina HT works with
manufacturers from all over Europe – and not with end customers.
“If the PCB is faulty, you can
simply replace it”, she explains. It becomes more difficult if the actual battery cells
are defective. This
is because as soon one cell ceases to function, the battery pack switches off
for reasons of safety.
E-mobility specialists such as the
BMZ Group headquartered in Karlstein am Main are pleased that it is now already
possible to recycle more than 50 per cent of an e-bike battery pack.
“We are on the right track”, says
Key Account Manager Ulrich Stiller. At EUROBIKE, the BMZ Group will be introducing the new
standard V 10 battery, which not only has a large range but is also smaller and
lighter than the old model and can be “installed in different drive systems”,
as Stiller explains. Also
accompanying this is a standard charging device.
Hannes Neupert, Executive Director
of the Extra Energy competence centre in the German state of Thuringia is an
advocate of standardized batteries for electrically powered cycles, including a
standardized interface for charging, as is already common for modern mobile
all, if the new motor were no longer to fit into the old frame, the only option
would be to throw away the bike. Retailer Thorsten Larschow considers that rather
his experience, even older drive systems can be still be retrofitted with
battery packs – at least in the case of the high-quality suppliers.
As a leading global trade fair, EUROBIKE is directed towards a specialist public on the three working days from 4 to 6 September and to all bike fans with the EUROBIKE Festival Day on Saturday, 7 September 2019.