Challenges and Opportunities of Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Recycling

Mar 1, 2021 | Industry

By Sandy Blalock • ARA Executive Director

It’s not about whether electric vehicles will impact the auto recycling industry. Rather, it’s about how much and how fast it will grow and whether our industry will be ready for it.

The professional automotive recycling industry is experiencing large-scale rapid shifts from our business models, acquiring inventory, customer expectations and more. It is going to be how we as an industry respond to these challenges that will determine the future of auto recycling and the many opportunities it presents.

It’s not about whether electric vehicles will impact the auto recycling industry. Rather, it’s about how much and how fast it will grow and whether our industry will be ready for it. Electric vehicles will cause a disruption within our industry unlike anything we have seen in the past. We can ease that disruption by being prepared and ready to face it head on rather than waiting for it to hit us.

Projections are all over the place, but the truth is by 2030 the potential for EV growth could mean that there will be 18 million EVs on U.S. roads a staggering jump from the estimated 1 million currently on our roads today. The early predictions that electric vehicle sales would be down due to the pandemic proved to not be true. Electric car sales in the U.S. increased last year, according to the new registration data from Experian, despite the overall market significantly decreasing. The number of all-electric car registrations in 2020 amounted to 252,548 (up 11.1 percent year-over-year, from 227,161 in 2019). In comparison, the overall vehicle market sales were down 15 percent for the same time period. 

ARA is highly focused on assuring that auto recyclers have all the tools, training and resources readily available to them to make sure they can safely and profitably process electric vehicles at the end of their road life. I have heard that many recyclers are still skeptical about how electric vehicles will affect our industry. The fact remains that in less than 10 years, electric vehicles have the potential to reach a 60 percent market share of all new vehicle sales and that is something we all should be paying attention to now.

ARA is evaluating opportunities these vehicles will present and also the many challenges auto recyclers will face when EVs become more prevalent and move into their end of road life. We have to be ready and that starts now.  

Our work to assure the industry has all the resources they need, including education, is our highest priority. ARA University will serve as our hub to prepare recyclers now and in the future. We have been engaged with many strategic partners including OEMs and battery manufacturers to garner both information, resources and educational materials. Thanks to Andy Latham, we now have a full course on electric/hybrid vehicle safety and dismantling training. Along with this we have resource guides on electric and hybrid vehicle technology and an EV battery database, all available on https://arauniversity.org/electric-hybrid-vehicle-technology-guide.

Our other concerns are making sure that our certification program addresses the need for high voltage awareness and protocols for safe electric and hybrid vehicle processing and dismantling. Our ARA Certification committee has been working diligently to integrate protocols into the program. It will require all ARA Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR) members to complete the training and utilize the resources on ARA University for electric and hybrid vehicles to assure they are meeting the highest industry standards set forth in the program. We will continue our work to assure you have everything you need to handle electric vehicles safely and profitably. Our goal is to make sure auto recyclers continue to be recognized as the professional industry that should be processing electric vehicles at end of life just like we have always done with the internal combustion engine vehicles.  There will be many opportunities and new products for auto recyclers to sell from these new vehicles that will replace the profit centers lost from engines and transmissions. Our job at ARA is to make sure all our members are prepared for the future and to assure your success and continued profitability. The future is not too distant and for many it is here now.

Reach Sandy Blalock at sandy@a-r-a.org. Share your thoughts pertaining to the advancement of professional automotive recycling. Your letter could be published in an upcoming issue.

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