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Battery recycling system starts to take shape

But it could take a decade before there’s a steady stream of used electric vehicle batteries

by Matt Blois
May 26, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 19


Machinery used to recycle batteries at a facility in Norway.
Credit: Northvolt
Northvolt hopes to use 50% recycled materials in its battery factories by 2030.

Companies focused on battery recycling are launching operations at large-scale factories capable of processing batteries from electric vehicles.

A joint venture connected to the Swedish battery maker Northvolt has started up Europe’s biggest battery recycling facility, capable of processing 25,000 electric car batteries per year. The facility, in Norway, will get batteries from the country’s well-developed electric vehicle market and supply Northvolt’s factories with black mass, a mixture of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other battery metals.

Meanwhile, Li-Cycle has opened a battery recycling plant in Arizona, a state the Canadian company hopes will become a hub for electric vehicle manufacturing. And TES has begun building a battery recycling facility at the port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Hans Eric Melin, founder and managing director at the consultancy Circular Energy Storage, says recycling companies are adopting two main strategies. Some are connected to battery makers. They process scrap left over from manufacturing and sell it back to producers. Melin says the other strategy is getting control of end-of-life batteries that need to be recycled. That could mean partnering with carmakers or energy storage companies.

Simon Engelke, founder of the consulting group Battery Associates, warns that it could be years before electric vehicles become a major source of recyclable material, as the battery in a vehicle sold today probably won’t be ready for recycling for another 8 years. For the next decade, he says, the majority of recyclable material will come from scrap produced at manufacturing sites.


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