Electric cars may be even better for the planet than we thought. In addition to their potential mitigating effect on climate change, their physical components are proving to be excellent homes for wildlife, such as the endangered scaly-sided merganser. A mohawked duck native to temperate East Asia, the merganser is the most recent species to have benefited from GM’s nesting boxes crafted from recycled Chevy Volt battery covers.


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Thanks to GM’s landfill-free program, 122 of the company’s facilities produce zero waste to be added to landfills. This system has encouraged the creative reuse of “waste,” as in the nesting boxes. The material to build these boxes is sourced from upcycled battery covers, which may have minor scratches or dents. Prior to housing the merganser, General Motors had set up approximately 700 nesting boxes on private and public land to provide shelter for bats, wood duck and bluebirds.

Related: Open source plans for 3d-printed urban bird nests

GM manager of waste reduction John Bradburn was inspired by his life-long appreciation for nature. “I grew up enjoying waterfowl and built many nest boxes in my youth. Once I saw the Chevy Volt battery cover in our plant, I knew it would make a good nest box. To test the idea five years ago, I built a prototype and within two weeks, I had a hen hooded merganser nesting in it.” These boxes for the scaly-sided merganser required some adjustments, such as a second exit to allow the ducks to escape from sables, local predators related to weasels.

The ducks need all the help they can get. “If we do not take action to protect this species and their habitats, they will disappear in the next five to 10 years,” says Peiqi Liu, manager of WWF China’s Flyway program. Fortunately for the ducks, they have good friends in high places. “The scaly-sided merganser is a very beautiful creature, [and] I highly admire the work that WWF and Wetlands International is doing to protect them,” says Bradburn.  The GM team was thrilled to see a mother merganser and her 11 newborn chicks roosting in one of the recently installed nesting boxes. These ducks are the first of hopefully many to find refuge in the upcycled battery covers.

+ GM

Images via GM and © Piao Longguo