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Battery recycling

One argument from skeptics about the success of electromobility is the lack of possibility for battery recycling. The market ofe-vehicles is booming, the number of e-mobiles on the roads is growing every month. But what happens after a few years when the vehicles have served their purpose? Are the oldBatteries a danger to the climate or can batteries be recycled in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way?

Yes, battery recycling is already possible today.

The ADAC currently speaks of around 1500 to 2500 charging cycles, then the capacity is oneLithium-ion batteries dropped to 70 to 80 percent of its original value. According to the prevailing opinion, the memory is at its end. With a full charging cycle every working day, it will be ready after around eight years, and with a lower charging frequency or only daily partial cycles, it will be later.

However, it would not make sense to immediately dispose of a battery that is still functional. So, ideally, this is followed by a phase that is today “Second Life" calls. For example, in stationary use - for example in the power grid -  Even weakened batteries can still provide good service. So e.g. B. in the energy storage of photovoltaic systems. It can also be used as a performance bufferFast charging stations is conceivable.

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BMW is showing the way in Leipzig: a storage farm was built there in 2017 that can bundle up to 700 batteries from the BMW i3 into a huge stationary storage system in second life. This stores the electricity generated on the factory premises by wind turbines and photovoltaic systems and thus makes it usable for production. The storage farm also serves as a buffer within the local power grid and can, for example, absorb electricity from the grid in the event of an oversupply.


What happens at the end of a battery’s life cycle?

For batteries and accumulators that either come from use within a 'second life' or that can no longer be used due to damage, battery recycling is required at the end of their life cycle. In Europe, recycling capacities for lithium-ion batteries (LIB) are being built up virtually at a time when the electromobility market is ramping up. Many companies are currently discovering the market for battery recycling, as there are now numerous entry opportunities due to the high growth rates in electric vehicles.

The recycling plants installed and announced in Europe, which are scheduled to run by the end of this year, correspond to a total capacity of over 100 kilotons of lithium-ion batteries. This is the first result of a preliminary investigation by RWTH Aachen University. The “Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components” (PEM) chair at RWTH Aachen University will start the Consortium study “Growth in Battery Recycling: Analysis and evaluation of process chains and technologies”. The main aim here is to answer the question of which development potential is necessary or possible and which includes the technological and economic aspects of battery recycling. Because there is currently no standardization of recycling.

The Nordics are once again leading the way; several recycling factories are being set up in Norway and Sweden alone. In addition, some large companies in Europe, such as Redwood Materials and the joint venture between Renault, Solvay and Veolia, have announced plans to set up recycling facilities in the next few years.

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Are there recycling projects in Germany?

There are currently pilot projects that deal intensively with the recycling of batteries. This is how a modern plant was built in Hilchenbach in North Rhine-Westphalia by the steelworks manufacturer SMS Group. Together with the Australian project developer Neometals Ltd. The group founded the joint venture Primobius GmbH in the summer of 2020. This is developing an environmentally friendly recycling process for lithium-ion batteries (source: sms Group). Instead of simply melting down Li-ion batteries, the valuable batteries are shredded here, broken down into their components and sorted. The system separates plastic and iron from the valuable raw materials. Copper, nickel, cobalt or lithium are then recovered via a reaction with a liquid.

The system is currently in the pilot phase. The  Demonstration system and the capacity of the shredder system increases to 10 tons per day. This should then be available for commercial recycling from the first quarter of 2022. 

In February of this year, VW also started testing a pilot plant in Salzgitter, which is expected to enable a recycling rate of over 90 percent. (Source: t3n)

Our conclusion on the recycling efforts in Europe

The skeptics' arguments are now outdated. The latest developments show that sustainable and environmentally friendly battery recycling is already possible today. Billions of euros in investments are now being invested in the expansion of recycling factories. They will make a valuable contribution to the sustainable life cycle of batteries in the coming years.

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