Exports of used electric and hybrid vehicles are surging on the back of strong demand for Japanese-made eco-friendly vehicles abroad, partly reflecting growing awareness of environmental protection in emerging countries.
But the trend may pose a problem in terms of recycling in Japan as exports of these vehicles lead to outflows of high-performance batteries.
According to recent trade data from the Finance Ministry, exports of used electric vehicles in the January-June period more than doubled from a year before to 3,464 units, and used hybrid vehicle exports rose 36.4 percent to 79,501 units.
Major export destinations for used electric vehicles include New Zealand and Russia, while Sri Lanka and Mongolia are major importers of used hybrid vehicles.
In Japan, consumers pay recycling fees in advance when they purchase new vehicles, and reusable parts and metals are collected when they are scrapped. For example, batteries in electric vehicles are recycled as rechargeable batteries, and rare metals are extracted and used again as well.
According to the Japan Automobile Recycling Promotion Center, however, the number of electric vehicles scrapped in Japan for recycling is lower than that of those shipped abroad.
In fiscal 2017, which ended in March, only 135 electric vehicles and 22,487 hybrid vehicles were scrapped and recycled at home.
“The domestic resources-recycling system may collapse” if the current situation continues, an automobile industry official warned.
The government has set a goal of making all passenger cars from Japanese makers electric by 2050.
The importance of recycling is increasing as countries intensify their drive to extract rare metals used during the manufacture of rechargeable batteries. Against this background, the government will consider ways to promote battery recycling.