Honda aims to make hybrids even more eco-friendly by recycling the batteries

2013 Honda Insight

Hybrids can save a lot on gasoline, which cuts down the amount of C02 put into the atmosphere. In order to do that, however, modern hybrids rely on precious earth metal batteries. These metals need to be mined from the ground, often devastating the surrounding environment. Once mined, a great deal of energy is required to process these metals into forms used for battery production.

Suddenly, hybrids don’t sound as eco-friendly as the once had.

Aware of – and concerned by – this fact, Honda has begun a process to recycle many of its nickel-metal hydride hybrid batteries for re-implementation into the hybrid market and beyond.

Until the unveiling of the 2013 Accord Hybrid, which is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, Honda had exclusively used nickel-metal hydride batteries in its hybrids.

Honda has cleverly devised a way to take the used nickel-metal hydride batteries and recycle them by adding molten salt electrolysis to the metals. The result is a rare earth metal that is more than 99-percent pure, which is the same purity level as that of the ordinary, newly mined rare earth metals.

With over 386 hybrid vehicles irreparably damaged by the Japan Earthquake, Honda has turned to this process to recycle the on-board battery packs of its Earthquake-damaged fleet for re-implementation into the hybrid market. Once refined, the rare earth metals are turned over to battery manufacturer JMC for the final battery production process.

Once completed with the repurposing of the Japan Earthquake-damaged batteries, Honda will turn its focus to the hundreds of thousands of nickel-metal hydride hybrid batteries on the road today. As those batteries are replaced in Honda dealerships over time, Honda will recycle those, too, for next-generation Honda hybrid vehicles.

Honda is dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of a mobility society. Accordingly, Honda is also hard at work to recycle other metals and materials from the rest of its vehicles as well.

For an example of a modern hybrid system that forgoes using rare earth metals altogether, check out our write-up of the Peugeot Citroen air hybrid.