Electric scooter battery maintenance and disposal tips

An electric scooter parked near an expanse of grass.

In another blog post on The Environmental Impact of Electric Scooters, we discussed the materials used to make an electric scooter, the source of the electricity used to power them, and why owning a personal e-scooter is more environmentally responsible than renting one. However, we did not discuss batteries, a key and complex component of every electric vehicle.

The batteries used in electric vehicles are rechargeable. Unlike electric cars, which are charged at special charging points, e-bikes, e-scooters and other smaller devices can be charged from a standard socket in your home or office. The battery will store the electric charge and then release it gradually to give the vehicle power over several kilometres. The larger it is, the more range the vehicle has, although a larger battery is also heavier and contains more toxic chemicals that are ultimately harmful to the environment.

If you care about the environment, then making purchasing decisions based on a product’s carbon footprint probably sounds like you. Read on to learn more about managing your electric scooter battery and about safe disposal at the end of its useful life, so you can scoot without environmental concerns weighing heavily on your conscience.

How does good battery management extend my electric scooter’s life?

So you’ve invested in a decent electric scooter with a high quality motor, and you’re aware that your e-scooter’s parts can be easily recycled in the future… but what about its battery? We predict that battery management and usable life extension will become major discussion points in the not-so-distant future, and for this reason responsible battery management will be the subject of a future separate blog post.

All rechargeable batteries lose capacity over time – that’s just chemistry. This means that they become less capable of storing charge, and as a consequence you end up having to charge them increasingly often. The most common reason why people replace their electronic devices and gadgets is in fact not motor failure, but battery depletion. And instead of replacing the battery, most of us will purchase a new device altogether, condemning the old one to landfill a bit too soon.

It is also true that, consumer laziness aside, manufacturers are often complicit in the premature demise of electronic devices, as gadgets are rarely built in a modular fashion with replaceable parts, and information about how to effectively manage the battery is rarely made available upon purchase.

You may be surprised to learn that efficient battery charging and management can increase the life of a scooter’s lithium-ion battery by up to eight times. How incredible is that? So finding ways to extend the life of your e-scooter battery is crucial, as it will keep not only the battery but the entire vehicle out of landfill for longer, minimising their impact on the environment.

Remember these four key points and you will succeed in lengthening your battery’s life: 

  1. Temperature control is critical, so ask your e-scooter supplier if the battery pack contains heat sensors and temperature management;
  2. Only partially discharge your battery when in regular use – don’t wait until it’s completely flat.
  3. After approximately 30 charges, allow the battery to completely discharge to avoid what is called ‘digital memory’.
  4. If you’re not using your e-scooter for an extended period of time, then leave it at about 40% full to retain the best battery condition.

Because of the complexity entailed in having to take all these aspects into account, at Taur we are investing our efforts into finding the best way to automate the process of maximising the battery life of our electric scooters. We think it’s important to focus on monitoring and understanding the state of the scooter’s battery and to simplify your battery management tasks, hence removing the onus on you to remember everything (more on the Taur e-scooter to come in the near future!).

A pile of mixed batteries.
Photography by Nmair

Will we find safe and sustainable ways to dispose of electric scooter batteries?

Maximising the life of your e-scooter battery is one thing, but what about its ‘end of usable life’ and correct disposal? The growth in electric car ownership will pose a much more significant issue than electric scooters, as cars have much larger batteries, however e-scooter users and manufacturers will still have a part to play in preserving the environment. 

As mentioned before, no battery lasts forever – batteries degrade over time, gradually losing their capacity to store energy. When a battery reaches 40% of its original storage capacity, it becomes unsuitable for the rigorous demands of transport. However, lithium-ion batteries can usually continue to collect and discharge electricity for another 7 to 10 years after being discarded from vehicles. This extra life will become important very soon, as the global stockpile of old batteries is forecast to exceed the equivalent of 3.4 million packs by 2025, compared to 55,000 in 2018. The most likely use of these discarded batteries is fixed electric storage for domestic and industrial applications.

When the repurposed battery drops its capacity even further and becomes unusable for fixed storage, it will then have to be disposed of safely – as it contains harmful, toxic chemicals. Avoiding landfill contamination while maximising the recycling of materials will therefore become increasingly important. At the moment pilot schemes are being established by major car companies, and legislation is being introduced to ensure manufacturers take responsibility.

As for what you can do to play your part in safely discarding e-scooter batteries, you should always dispose of them in designated containers labeled as battery recycling bins, and never throw them away together with your general refuse – otherwise they will go straight to landfill, and the toxic chemicals they contain will be released, thus contaminating the environment.

Conclusion

As we mentioned in our previous article on The Environmental Impact of Electric Scooters, it might seem disheartening to know that the environmental impact of e-scooter manufacturing and electricity generation is largely out of your control. Yet this doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to help minimise the carbon footprint of your e-scooter.

The first action you can take is to invest in a high quality electric scooter that uses recyclable materials and contains high quality lithium-ion batteries from a reputable supplier. Then, make sure that you look after your scooter's battery, by fully discharging after 30 charges and not allowing it to run completely flat in between these deep discharges. This will ensure a longer-lasting e-scooter that you can make sure is properly recycled and safely disposed of at the end of its life.

Ask what the e-scooter seller is doing to maximise the life of the battery, and ask your local authorities about local recycling services. A longer lifespan combined with good battery management and safe end-of-life disposal is best for the environment, and these are all actions that ultimately rest with you.

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