Prius batteries to end up at scrap yards
As the first generation Toyota Prius hybrid cars begin to hit 11 years old, Toyota officials say the number of used hybrid batteries showing up in the waste stream is expected to skyrocket in the coming years.
The car manufacturer wants to collect those batteries so they can be recycled, said Toshi Fukui, a manager of Toyota Tsusho America, a subsidiary of the car manufacturer.
He said Toyota wants to set up a hub-and-spoke system so when an aged or destroyed Prius comes to a scrap yard, the smaller facilities could remove the batteries and send them to a local hub, where Toyota could collect them for demanufacturing.
"We're really concerned about the safety issue," Fukui said. "Even a dead hybrid battery may have over 200 volts inside, which can cause serious injury or death."
He said scrap yards shouldn't attempt to disassemble the batteries or shred them.
"Please don't shred, bale or crush any of the hybrid batteries," he said. "They still continue a great deal of energy inside of them."
Mark Saxonberg, manager of advanced fuel vehicles for Toyota Motor Sales USA, said there are a small number of batteries being returned today, mostly to the dealerships, but that will change in the coming years.
"You will start to see a lot of these batteries," he said. "We expect more than 50,000 a year and doubling year after year. They are going to be entering the scrap industry."
He said by 2025, Toyota expects that 300,000 batteries will be returned per year, with the vast majority of them not being taken to the local Toyota dealership.
He said Toyota is committed to making sure the hazardous parts of the batteries are not harming the environment, and the precious metals inside are reused.
"We have a social responsibility to get these batteries out of the scrap stream as best we can," he said.
Saxonberg said the Prius started off as a niche vehicle and was popular in only a couple of markets, so the company expects that the first wave of batteries will show up in the California, Texas, Oregon, Florida and Arizona.
Toyota has partnered with Toxco Inc. to demanufacture and recycle batteries in North America. Todd Coy, vice president of battery operations, said Toxco has three permitted facilities in North America: one in California, Canada and Ohio. A second Ohio plant is under construction and was partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Energy Department.