E-waste Management Needs Push from Industry, Consumer, Govt

Electronic items discarded as waste by the world weighed over 50 million tonnes in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. This is a 20% increase from the previous five years. The volume is expected to soar in the following years thanks to the coronavirus-triggered surge in dependence on technology. During the 2020-2030 decade, we can expect to generate 40% more electronic waste. The corresponding global e-waste recycling rate will be only 20% (industry insights). In the discarded e-waste, most of the devices containing lithium-ion batteries (mostly smartphones) pose a significant risk to the environment. A major chunk of e-waste is getting dumped in Asian countries due to the rise of affluent consumers and affordability of electronic gadgets.

E-Waste Generated by Countries
E-Waste Generated by Countries

Smartphones contribute to 12% of global e-waste. This number will continue to increase unless we take measures to check it. From the perspective of carbon emissions, smartphone production alone contributes 80-90% of carbon emissions by the device. Given this scenario, consumers, manufacturers and governments have certain responsibilities which they need to be serious about.

Why electronic devices, more so mobile phones, need to be carefully handled as e-waste?

An electronic device such as the mobile phone has over 60 different metals, present in very small quantities. Among all the metals used in mobile phones, rare earth metals play a crucial role. They can also cause soil and water contamination if not disposed of properly. Besides, demand for more mobile phones increases mining activities for these metals, which adversely impact the environment at the extraction stage itself. Since these metals are available in limited quantities, their higher consumption has already led them to be listed as ‘endangered metals’. Moreover, to make a single mobile phone, almost 6-7 kg of high-grade gold ore gets mined. The fact that most of the metal parts in a mobile phone can be recycled with very little waste generated is being conveniently ignored by most of the industry.

Is recycling the solution?

Recycling does seem to be the obvious solution. A first-of-its-kind nationwide effort was initiated in Japan to recycle e-waste to produce medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. At the same time, undertaking recycling without following proper norms for the collection and treatment of e-waste can adversely impact the environment as well as recyclers.

Tokyo Olympics Medals Made from Electronic Waste

Tokyo Medals 2020
Olympics Tokyo medals made out of E-Waste

Right to repair

The UK has cleared the Right to Repair legislation that gives consumers the right to repair their own electronic devices and requires the manufacturers to supply the necessary spare parts. The EU and US are expected to follow suit soon. This move can be considered a step towards having a circular economy, a topic already being debated in European and some other countries. France is one of the first countries to come out with a repairability index. The country’s repairability index has five electronic devices — smartphones, laptops, TVs, washing machines and lawnmowers. It mandates a clear display of information on the repairability of the electronic equipment being used. The objective is to encourage consumers to choose more repairable products and eventually make manufacturers improve the repairability of their products.

The success of the right to repair movement depends on how many countries and regions join it and take legislative and policy measures in the direction. Europe has an important role here in influencing other regions due to its large number of member countries and its ability to establish global standards and convince manufacturers to make design and other changes in their products.

Advocacy against right to repair

Tech firms like Apple, Microsoft and Amazon have opposed certain aspects of the right to repair movement. They argue that opening their intellectual property to third-party repair services could lead to exploitation and impact the safety and security of devices manufactured by them. However, a few firms including Apple Microsoft have recently given in to this movement. Starting early next year, Apple plans to make parts and tools available to those in the US who are comfortable with undertaking their own repairs. The decision will initially apply to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 after which it would be extended to Mac computers with M1 chips. The facility will be expanded to other countries later in 2022.

Unfolding future

For the longest time, tech companies have been working to reduce the lifespan of their products and make their repair difficult and expensive. This has pushed the consumers to buy a new product instead of repairing it. Right to repair and other such movements are a step towards changing this narrative. Going forward, producers and manufacturers are expected to bear maximum responsibility, but support from governments and consumers is equally important.

At a time when changing smartphones has become a very common practice, changing the consumer mindset towards the concept of sustainability and the need for longevity of their devices is both the key and a challenge. France is now rejecting the ‘throwaway culture’, making considerable strides towards its sustainability dream. Its ‘anti-waste Bill’ in 2019 and now repairability index speak for its intentions.

Such interventions by governments, along with incentives, will not only hold good for the environment but also make sound economic sense by ensuring our devices stay in use as long as possible.

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Stellantis Bets Big with €30-billion Investment Plan for EV Business

Stellantis, formed in 2021 after the merger of Italian American automaker Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA, unveiled its electrification plans on July 8. The company will invest more than €30 billion over the next five years to develop new technologies and ecosystems. With electrification of its iconic brands, strategic partnerships for five giga factories, and a dedicated software team, Stellantis is ready to compete against other automakers globally.

Besides using best-in-class full-electrification solutions for its 14 iconic brands, Stellantis will also focus on electrifying its commercial vehicle line-up and rolling out hydrogen fuel-cell medium vans by the end of 2021. By 2025, 98% of all models across the company’s portfolio in Europe and the US will be electric. Stellantis predicts that the sale of its low emission vehicles (BEV and PHEV) will be over 70% in Europe and over 40% in the US by 2030.

Technology Development

Stellantis has unveiled four BEV-centric platforms which will be the backbone of its EVs. The highly flexible design, which allows sharing of components, will enable each platform to support the production of up to 2 million units per year. The platforms will come with three dedicated electric drive modules (EDM). These compact and flexible modules can be configured for front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and 4xe. The EDMs will house a common scalable power inverter, in-house proprietary controls, and software. The power inverter will be fitted with a selectable power device, either silicon (Si) or silicon carbide (SIC), for better performance. Three family solutions focused on performance, flexibility and efficiency will cater to all its brands across all four platforms. In Europe, these drivetrains will be supplied by NPe, a joint venture between Stellantis and NIDEC. The supply in the US will be done by Stellantis and its strategic partners.

Platforms and Drivetrain


Stellantis will develop a high energy-density nickel-based battery and a nickel-cobalt-free alternative under its dual chemistry battery strategy. These will be available in the market from 2024. This new solution will cut battery pack costs by more than 40% from 2020 to 2024 and by an additional 20% by 2030. To develop the battery production, Stellantis has already invested in three giga factories (two in Europe and one in the US), which will secure a cumulative plant capacity of 130+ GWh by 2025. By 2030, this capacity will go up to 260+ GWh with two more giga factories in Europe and the US. Stellantis has signed an MoU with two lithium geothermal brine process partners in the US and Europe to ensure an unhindered supply of lithium.

Battery Chemistry


Ecosystem Plans

After securing the development and production of powertrains and batteries, Stellantis plans to develop a strong ecosystem for its EV business. The partnerships with Free2Move and Engie PS will allow Stellantis to provide customizable bundled charging solutions for both B2B and B2C segments. Jointly, they plan to deploy 5,000 grid integrated fast chargers across 1,500 locations in Europe by 2025, increasing them to 35,000 across 9,000 locations by 2030 across Europe, North America, and South America. Moreover, Stellantis is building a full circular battery recycling strategy for sustainable battery management. With software to manage and monitor battery health, Stellantis will set up 21 repair centres globally by the end of 2021 to provide unique services and solutions to its customers. Batteries not fit for vehicles anymore will be used for charging and energy storage solutions in their second life. With qualified partners, Stellantis will recycle batteries using a new technology that will be able to extract most of the raw materials for their reuse in new batteries. Stellantis is expecting a volume growth of nearly 5,000 batteries per year by 2030 for recycling only in Europe. To support this, battery re-manufacturing units are also planned. Currently, there is only one at Rüsselsheim in Germany.

Circular Strategy


Lastly, the company will have a dedicated software development unit that will provide software for better traction control and regenerative braking, superior battery management system and power usage. The new smart cockpit and remote service products are expected to deliver a best-in-class experience.

Several key technology joint ventures, like with NIDEC for e-powertrain; with ACC, TotalEnergies, CATL, BYD, LG Chem and SVOLT for battery cell chemistry and pack production; with Foxconn for the smart cockpit and remote service; and with Free2move and Engie PS for the deployment of charging infrastructure, will not only provide Stellantis the opportunity to leverage its in-house competencies but will also enable it to bring solutions in the market more rapidly and stay ahead of the competition.

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