Why your iPhone 17 could come with a recycled battery.


The rapid adoption of EVs is good news for climate action, but it’s creating a difficult dynamic for battery recyclers.

Batteries can last more than a decade in a vehicle, and if they get a second life in permanent energy storage, they can be used for even longer. So an EV battery won’t be ready for recycling for at least 15 years, in most cases. Looking back 15 years ago, In 2008, Tesla began production of the Roadster, and the company only made a few hundred a year for the first two years. To put it mildly: There aren’t many EVs going off the road due to aging today, and there won’t be for some time.

So as the EV market continues to grow exponentially, there may be a shortage of recycled materials. If all EV and phone manufacturers wanted to use only recycled cobalt, for example, there wouldn’t be enough to go around.

Battery production for AVs is on the rise: Total lithium-ion battery production for light-duty vehicles could exceed 12 million metric tons by 2030. Recycling that day.

Despite that awkward gap, there are two reasons why Apple can keep its promise on recycled cobalt.Hans Eric MellinHead of Circular Energy Storage, a battery recycling consultancy.

For one, mobile devices have been using lithium-ion batteries for decades. Thanks to your father’s camera, For your Motorola Razr flip phone from 2006, there’s at least some recycled cobalt around the market today.

And the economics of using recycled materials are very different for personal appliances and cars. Because of its size, an AV battery can cost up to 40% of the vehicle’s price, Melin says. That’s not the case with devices like phones, so a company like Apple can probably pay a little more for recycled battery materials without affecting the cost of the entire device.

So your iPhone in 2025 (by my reckoning, maybe the iPhone 17) could be made using cobalt from recycled sources. Vehicles may take a little longer: EV batteries are larger, and there are fewer old ones ready for a new life. But we’re moving toward a world where we can reuse materials in the technology we know and love.


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