Battery Recycling: A Need of the hour.

The Need of the hour today is to have a sustainable closed loop Battery Manufacturing. In this article I will go through the various major reasons and constraints for recycling batteries from Electric vehicles.

So Why do we need to Recycle Batteries?

  • Battery Cost

Battery cost has fallen over last years from $1200/kWh in 2010 to 132$/kWh in 2021. Approximately 77% of the cost is the Lithium Ion battery Cell. Below Image shows the breakdown of cost of an EV Battery Cell. Source: Visual Capitalist

Raw Material accounts 40% to 50% of the Cell Cost. Virgin raw materials prices have started to increase as we see today. Several Automakers e.g. Ford with F150 (between $6000 to $8500) & Mustang Mach E (between $3000 to $8000) have been forced to do price increases on their Electric Vehicle models.

  • Raw Materials are scattered around the world:

A good infographic world map below shows major supply chain issues in Raw Material as the battery raw materials and processing centers are concentrated in few countries. Geopolitics and companies controlling mines will lead to price increases, supply chain disruptions and geopolitics.

Source for Above Image

Lithium Ion Batteries of today use raw materials such as Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Manganese, Graphite, Aluminum. Some of them are classified as Critically rare according to a EU study. Source for Image and Study

Below table shows evolution of batteries from Current to the next stage developments and their different attributes.

Battery raw material only 1% is mined in Europe. The Rest of the raw material and processing is spread across many countries.

Cobalt: Republic of Congo (54% cobalt), China (8%), Canada(6%), Australia (4%). Cobalt is refined in China (46%), Finland, Canada (13%) and Belgium (8%).

Lithium (90% of Global reserves): Chile (40%), Australia (29%), Argentina (16%). Again China has 45% of hard rock Lithium Refining, Chile (32%) and Argentina (20%) dominate refining from Brine.

Source for above data and image: Critical Raw Materials for Strategic Technologies and Sectors in the EU A Foresight Study

  • For a sustainable future we need to have sustainable circular manufacturing

The International Energy Agency, estimates that electric vehicles put on the road in 2019 generated 500,000 metric tons of Lithium Ion Battery waste, and the total amount of waste generated by 2040 could be as much as 8 million tons. As per Image below, we are on track with electric car sales as per Net Zero Emission 2050 Scenario according to IEA.

Electric car sales share in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

A Study at Finland’s Alto University States that using recycled materials resulted in 38% less Greenhouse gas emissions vs using virgin raw materials.

  • So how can we recycle?

There are three main types of recycling:

  1. Direct Recycling – Physical recycling
  2. Pyrometallurgy – Recycling through Smelting
  3. Hydrometallurgy – Recycling through Chemical leaching
Source for Image & More details on recycling methods: Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Processes: Research towards a Sustainable Course Linda Gaines1 Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue, Argonne, IL 60439, United States

World’s Leading Companies in Battery Recycling Industry: Top 10 by Revenue in Million/year 2022. Source

  • Doe Run Company ($708M): leading manufacturer of Zinc, copper and lead concentrates. They recycle 8.5 Million lead materials and batteries every year.
  • RSR Corporation ($491M)
  • Gropher Resource LLC ($121m) has 5 companies which offer safe and natural recycling for lead acid batteries in particular but also other type of batteries such as Lithium Ion.
  • Battery Solutions ($61M) Company provides battery packs for EV and also iRecycle Kit for damaged, recalled or defective Lithium Ion Batteries.
  • East Penn Manufacturing Company Inc. ($46M)
  • G & P Service ($24M)
  • Retrieve Technologies ($19M) leading provider of BMS and recycling solutions. They use cryogenic process to recycle highly reactive Lithium batteries. They also use hydrometallurgy and material separation treatment technology to process lithium ion batteries.
  • LICYCLE CORP.($7.4M) Recycling products and solutions for lithium ion batteries. They provide Nickel sulfate, manganese carbonate product to manufacturers in various chemical applications from end of life lithium ion batteries.
  • ACCUREC Recycling GMBH ($6M) Leading provider of recycling technology with zero emission solutions for recycling various types of batteries (NiCd, Lithium Ion)
  • Ecobat Logistics ($2M): Owns 27 Companies and provides solution for battery collection and recycling

Some Major OEM & EV battery Manufacturers:

Volkswagen:

This July, Volkswagen entered global battery business with PowerCoPowerCo committed to green unified cell, produced with green electricity and a recycling rate of more than 90% as part of a raw materials cycle. Sources: Official Volkswagen PowerCo AnnouncementBattMAN Box

SK Innovation will build its first Battery Metal Recycling plant by early next year with an aim to put it into commercial operation by 2025. The company said it also plans to build a BMR plant overseas to recycle scrapped batteries.

LG Energy Solution, Korea’s top battery maker, will set up a value chain in the EV battery business from mining raw materials to production and disposal of batteries. LG Energy, which formed Ultium Cells LLC, an EV battery joint venture with General Motors Co., has signed a business contract with a US battery recycling company to enter the American battery disposal market.

Samsung SDI, a unit of Korea’s top conglomerate Samsung, has partnered with PMGROW Corp., a Korean electric bus and battery product maker, to advance into the battery recycling market.

Northvolt: They manufacture Green Batteries (less CO2 footprint by using sustainable manufacturing via green electricity and recycling). Northvolt plans after end of Life to completely recycle batteries and reuse the material up to 95%. They produce proprietary lingonberry NMC chemistry batteries. In Dec 2019, through ReVolt inhouse program for recycling was developed (Northvolt) and hydrometallurgy for batteries was refined. Their Target is to source 50% of the raw materials for batteries from recycling by 2030.

Northvolt have two major projects:

1. Hydrovolt – a Northvolt–Hydro joint venture. It’s Europe’s biggest recycling plant. They can handle 12,000 Tons of battery packs.

2: Revolt ETT recycling plant is being constructed alongside Northvolt ETT Gigafactory. Fully built, Revolt ETT will recycle around 125,000 tons of battery materials per year. This will include production scrap from its neighboring facility as well. Source for all above for Northvolt

Battery Recycling Projects in EU July 2022 by batterynews.de.

Thus in Conclusion, using Recycled battery raw material is the right choice as a long-term strategy for battery manufacturers. It makes the whole manufacturing of batteries a Closed loop and environmentally sustainable process. Already we have a few established battery recyclers in the world but as EV’s grow we will need more recycling capacity including OEM to have circular manufacturing economy.

Authors Note: In the next few articles, I am in the process of trying to understand more of the details in the forecasted growth of Global Vehicle Stock and how much of that will be electric vehicles. How much will that equate to battery kWH and thus how many manufacturing plants (Gigafactories)? How much will that equate to battery recycling in Tons and thus how many recycling plants? and so on…. Until Next time.

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