With an e-bike we can get up the mountain much easier. But high-quality bikes are increasingly easy for thieves to steal with cutters whose energy is stored in a rechargeable battery.
The Two-Wheeler Industry Association has published that 1.1 million e-bikes were sold in the first half of 2020. This represents an increase of almost 16% over the previous year and is another record for e-bike sales in Germany. Devices with rechargeable batteries are now preferred in many other areas of life as well. According to the Federal Environment Agency, the mass of rechargeable batteries has increased by over 70% from 2010 – 2019.
Range of application and function of rechargeable batteries
The range of use of accumulators (rechargeable batteries) – also called secondary batteries – is wide. Because they are rechargeable and the devices weigh less, they are now replacing a large percentage of simple primary batteries in electrical appliances, fuel-powered motors and corded electrical devices. Battery-powered tools have now become established in the do-it-yourself sector and in commercial enterprises. Hedge trimmers, pruning saws and lawn mowers can be found in home gardens. Rechargeable batteries have become indispensable in cell phones, laptops and e-cars. In the future, the need for battery storage for renewable energy will also z. B. from one’s own photovoltaic system is increasing.
In an accumulator, electrical energy is converted into chemical energy during charging. When a consumer is connected, the chemical energy is converted back into electrical energy. The accumulator types are designated according to the materials used. Known battery types are z. B.:
Lithium-ion battery (cell phones, notebooks and cameras), nickel-metal hydride battery (model making, electric cars) and lead-acid batteries (starter batteries for vehicles with combustion engines and island photovoltaic systems).
Rechargeable versus battery
The advantages are obvious: lightweight devices enable quiet, emission-free work without tangled cables. In contrast to batteries, rechargeable batteries have higher purchase costs, since you have to buy a suitable charger in addition to the power storage devices. But it’s worth it, because rechargeable batteries can be recharged several times. Depending on the battery type, 500 to 10.000 charging cycles achieved. If the accumulators are not used, however, they lose a large part of their energy after just a few months. To prevent self-discharge, rechargeable batteries should be recharged after six months at the latest. It is best to keep the battery level always between 30 – 80 % charge.
Unlike rechargeable batteries, batteries often retain their charge for years, provided the devices’ power consumption is relatively low. Batteries are therefore preferably used for devices that should function reliably for a long time, such as alarm clocks, watches, smoke detectors, remote controls etc. These devices use little power and the batteries used rarely need to be replaced. In this case, the use of accumulators would be unfavorable, since they have to be recharged frequently.
Batteries and rechargeable batteries consume between 40 and 500 times more energy during their manufacture than they later provide when in use. Electricity from batteries is about 300 times more expensive than electricity from the grid! With rechargeable batteries, the environmental and energy balance can be decisively improved through multiple recharging.
Battery production requires finite raw materials (metal ores) and is extracted in mining operations that are often environmentally destructive. The most widely produced lithium-ion batteries contain cobalt and lithium. During the processing of cobalt, toxic slags containing heavy metals are produced as residues, which poison entire regions and people (mining in Congo, Zambia or China). Lithium is obtained similarly to sea salt by drying brine in artificial ponds. The lithium is located in underground waterways and is exposed by blasting. In Chile, this use of groundwater promotes the drying up of the landscape. In other lithium-bearing ore deposits in Australia, Canada and China, environmental pollution is caused by fine dust and massive water extraction during the drainage of lakes. In the u. a. Linklist you will find more information about raw material extraction.
Recycling and outlook
With regard to environmental friendliness, it is even more important that the recycling of accumulators and batteries ensures the reuse of the recovered metals for battery production. The Battery Act (BattG) was passed on 01.01.2021 amended and is directed among other things at manufacturers, distributors, end users and public waste management authorities. It regulates the separate collection of spent batteries and accumulators, free take-back, take-back systems and recycling (for more information see u. a. Link List).
Although electric cars, commercial vehicles or e-bikes are on the rise, limited ranges, high prices, cumbersome charging infrastructure and raw material-intensive battery production are delaying a rapid e-mobility turnaround. For widespread use, rechargeable batteries must become even more efficient, durable, sustainable and cost-effective. Solutions that z. B. Use sodium-ion batteries to replace the rare lithium salts with simple table salt are still in development.
Tips for handling rechargeable batteries
Because of the serious environmental destruction in the production of rechargeable batteries, reconsider what is the best solution for a new purchase.
Do not wait until your battery is completely discharged. It is better to recharge the battery in time to extend the life of your battery.
Typical processes that can damage the battery in the long term are the storage of the battery z. B. in the heated up car or leaving the battery in the laptop, if one always works only at the net.
Many chargers consume electricity as long as they are in the socket – even when they are not charging. So disconnect chargers from the mains after charging or use chargers that disconnect from the mains automatically. The same goes for power supplies.
Some manufacturers offer chargers with solar operation. This will make you independent of mains sockets and allow you to charge your batteries in an environmentally friendly way with the help of solar energy.
There is a fire hazard with lithium-containing batteries and rechargeable batteries! Be careful if your cell phone battery is blowing up. Especially when disposed of incorrectly, internal and external short circuits can occur due to thermal effects or mechanical damage. A short circuit can lead to fire or explosion. To prevent a short circuit, tape the terminals of discarded lithium-ion batteries with adhesive tape. Wash your hands thoroughly after direct contact with leaked batteries.
Never mix up the battery terminals. This can permanently destroy rechargeable batteries. Charge only the batteries for which the charger is suitable.
Old batteries and accumulators are hazardous waste. Therefore, you are required to collect them separately. You can also see this on every battery by the symbol of the crossed-out trash can. Under no circumstances do they belong in the household waste – or even carelessly in the environment. Dispose of your old batteries and rechargeable batteries at specialist retailers, at recycling centers, at the mobile hazardous waste collection point or at the Mainz environmental store.