Electric school buses are on the rise in the US. How can battery waste be avoided?

  • A report by the Electric School Bus Initiative has outlined recommendations to avoid batteries going into landfill at their end of life, ensuring the environmental benefits stay in place.
  • With the average battery on electric school buses being taken out of service after around 10 years, owing to its extensive mileage, plans must be made to ensure the disposal and reuse of these batteries is as green and economical as possible.
  • The group has outlined several green outcomes that these worn batteries can take.

The United States’ near half-a-million fleet of school buses is beginning its switch to battery power, with pure electric school buses with up to 300 miles range now available in the country, and states such as Colorado, Michigan, and Washington D.C. aiming for all buses on the road to be zero-emission by 2035. With this change, however, comes the environmental risks of battery disposal once these batteries reach their end of life, as the Electric School Bus (ESB) Initiative has warned in its new report.

The group has outlined several strategies which should be applied to used ESB batteries, to avoid the worst case scenario of them ending up in landfill. Firstly, end-of-life batteries should be health-tested, in order to allocate them to the best second-use. This is easier said than done however, with there currently being a lack of standardised testing procedures for reviewing their health states.

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The ESB Initiative has recommended second-life use as the most preferable action. With ESB batteries typically still having 70% of their original capacity when removed, they are still suited for use in energy storage. Plus, this grants the ESB operators a good return on their batteries, lowering the total cost of ownership.

If this isn’t applicable, the organisation has also recommended refurbishment or recycling as other options instead of batteries going straight to landfill. In addition to these recommendations, the group has also suggested that the United States implement an extended producer responsibility policy for EV batteries, which holds battery manufacturers responsible for the route their batteries take once they reach end-of-life. Similar policies are already in place elsewhere in the world.

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