Toyota is one of the world’s leading automakers, with a reputation for innovation, quality, and sustainability. The company has been at the forefront of developing electrified vehicles, such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.
However, Toyota is concerned not only with its vehicles' environmental impact during their use, but also with their entire life cycle, from production to disposal. That is why Toyota is promoting activities that focus on the creation of a circular economy, including a circular ecosystem for the batteries used in its vehicles.
What is a circular economy?
A circular economy is a system that aims to eliminate waste and make the most of the resources available. It is based on three principles:
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate natural systems
In contrast, a linear economy is a system that follows a “take-make-waste” model, where resources are extracted, transformed into products, and then discarded after use. This leads to environmental degradation, resource depletion, and social inequality.
A circular economy is not only beneficial for the environment but also for the economy and society. It can create new business opportunities, generate cost savings, enhance innovation, improve competitiveness, and increase social well-being.
Why is battery recycling important for a circular economy?
Batteries are essential components of electrified vehicles, as they store and provide the electrical energy needed to power the motors. However, batteries also have environmental and social impacts, such as:
- The extraction and processing of raw materials, such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, can cause land degradation, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and human rights violations.
- The transportation and distribution of batteries can increase the vehicles' carbon footprint and energy consumption.
- The disposal of batteries can pose risks of fire, explosion, leakage, contamination, and waste valuable materials that could be reused or recycled.
Therefore, battery recycling is a key strategy for electrified vehicles to achieve a circular economy. It can help to:
- Reduce the demand for new raw materials and the associated environmental and social impacts
- Save energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding the production of new batteries
- Recover valuable materials and resources that can be used for new battery production or other applications
- Prevent environmental and health hazards caused by improper battery disposal
What is Toyota’s Battery 3R approach?
Toyota’s Battery 3R approach is a comprehensive and global strategy to promote the circularity of the batteries used in its vehicles. It stands for Reduce, Rebuilt/Reuse, and Recycle, and it covers the following aspects:
- Reduce: Toyota aims to reduce waste generation by developing resource-efficient and long-lasting batteries. This includes improving the performance, durability, and safety of the batteries and optimizing the battery size and capacity according to the vehicle type and usage.
- Rebuilt and Reuse: Toyota aims to extend the life of the batteries by finding second uses for them in either automotive or non-automotive applications. This includes repackaging (rebuilding) the batteries for other vehicles, such as trucks, buses, or motorcycles, or reusing them for stationary purposes, such as energy storage, backup power, or grid services.
- Recycle: Toyota aims to recycle the batteries sustainably, minimizing the environmental impact and maximizing material recovery. This includes collecting and detoxifying the end-of-life batteries, separating and refining the materials, and using them as feedstock for new battery production or other products.
Toyota is implementing the Battery 3R approach globally, in collaboration with various partners, and considering the availability of local battery production in each country and region. The company hopes that its efforts will support vehicle development, contribute to local communities, and achieve carbon neutrality.
What are some examples of Toyota’s Battery 3R initiatives?
Toyota has been involved in various initiatives related to the Battery 3R approach in different regions of the world. Some examples are:
- In Japan, Toyota has established a joint venture with four other companies, called Japan Battery Recycle Co., Ltd., to collect and recycle end-of-life batteries from electrified vehicles. The company has also launched a project with Chubu Electric Power Co., Inc. to reuse batteries from PHEVs as stationary energy storage systems for peak shaving and frequency regulation.
- In the U.S., Toyota has partnered with Redwood Materials, a leading battery recycling company, to recycle batteries from Toyota and Lexus vehicles and use the recovered materials for new battery production. The company has also collaborated with Clarios, a global leader in advanced battery technologies, to repurpose batteries from hybrid vehicles as low-voltage power sources for various applications.
- In Europe, Toyota has joined forces with SNAM, a French company specializing in battery collection and recycling, to ensure that the batteries from Toyota and Lexus vehicles are properly handled and recycled in accordance with the European regulations. The company has also worked with Umicore, a Belgian materials technology and recycling group, to develop a closed-loop recycling system for the batteries from its BEVs.
- In China, Toyota has partnered with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL), the world’s largest battery manufacturer, to develop and produce batteries for electrified vehicles jointly and promote the Battery 3R approach. The company has also cooperated with GEM Co., Ltd., a leading battery recycling company, to recycle batteries from Toyota and Lexus vehicles and use the recovered materials for new battery production.
- In Asia, Toyota has initiated a project with PT Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indonesia (TMMIN) and PT Toyota Astra Motor (TAM) to reuse batteries from HEVs as backup power sources for the Toyota plants and dealers in Indonesia. The company has also supported a pilot project with Chulalongkorn University in Thailand to reuse batteries from HEVs as energy storage systems for the university campus.
How can you support Toyota’s Battery 3R approach?
As a consumer, you can support Toyota’s Battery 3R approach by choosing an electrified vehicle that suits your needs and preferences and by taking good care of the battery during its use. You can also help by returning the battery to Toyota or its authorized dealers when it reaches its end-of-life or by participating in any second-life or recycling programs that Toyota or its partners offer in your region.
By doing so, you can contribute to the creation of a circular economy for electrified vehicles and enjoy the benefits of driving a vehicle that is efficient, reliable, and environmentally and socially responsible.