Audi & Umicore Team Up For Recycling Of Li-Ion Batteries

OCT 28 2018 BY MARK KANE 16

95% of valuable battery materials can be recycled

Audi, in partnership with Umicore, develops closed-loop battery recycling, which means that valuable battery materials will be recycled for use in the same application in a new battery pack.

The research in small-scale was done using batteries from the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrids and on the lab level up to 95% of valuable battery materials (such as cobalt, nickel and copper) was able to be recycled.

Because batteries contain a lot of not so valuable materials, we don’t know what amount will be recycled and what utilized, but it seems less than 95%.

The recycled materials will go to a raw materials bank and when their purity is sufficient, new batteries can be made.

Audi A3 e-Tron Battery

“Milestone reached: Audi and Umicore have successfully completed phase one of their strategic research cooperation for battery recycling. The two partners are developing a closed loop for components of high-voltage batteries that can be used again and again. Particularly valuable materials are set to become available in a raw materials bank.

Already before the start of the cooperation with Umicore in June 2018, Audi had analyzed the batteries in the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid car and defined ways of recycling. Together with the material technology experts, the car manufacturer then determined the possible recycling rates for battery components such as cobalt, nickel and copper. The result: In laboratory tests, more than 95 percent of these elements can be recovered and reused.

The partners are now developing specific recycling concepts. The focus is on the so-called closed-loop approach. In such a closed cycle, valuable elements from batteries flow into new products at the end of their lifecycle and are thus reused. The Ingolstadt-based company is now applying this approach to the high-voltage batteries in the new Audi e-tron electric car. The aim is to gain insights into the purity of the recovered materials, recycling rates and the economic feasibility of concepts such as a raw materials bank. Security of supply and shorter delivery cycles are the goals. “We want to be a pioneer and to promote recycling processes. This is also an element of our program to reduce CO2 emissions in procurement,” says Bernd Martens, Member of the Board of Management for Procurement and IT at AUDI AG.

For Audi, battery recycling is a key element of sustainable electric mobility. From the extraction of raw materials to the CO2-neutral e-tron plant in Brussels to the recycling of components, the premium brand is committed to environmentally compatible concepts along its entire value chain”

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16 Comments on "Audi & Umicore Team Up For Recycling Of Li-Ion Batteries"

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lo

But what do they really do? They throw the cells into a shredder while maintaining an anaerob athmosphere to prevent lithium from combusting and then they sort into different fractions (mechanical and chemical, maybe optical and thermally).
That has been done before.
Of course, no one is peeling of the cells layer by layer.

Troy

one would think mechanically and chemically reprocessing the valuable atoms in these packs would be cheaper than collecting them anew from all over the planet, but who knows

antrik

The simplest / most common process is pyrolysis, i.e. melting the whole thing. It only allows for extracting some of the metals, though. More advanced processes use chemical separation. Not sure these are economically viable, yet…

antrik

More specifically, pyrolysis only allows for recovering the expensive nickel and cobalt (and copper?) IIRC, but not lithium.

TM3x2 Chris

That’s commendable, battery recycling is not only good for the environment but also great for the production resource supply. I wish all plug-in manufacturers implemented a similar program.

ekutter

Do we know what other companies are doing? It’d be interesting to have an in depth article on the current state of battery recycling. Clearly the most efficient form currently is re-purposing, such as using them as home battery solutions where kwh/weight isn’t as important. But it would be interesting to understand what is currently possible and being done with recycling the materials them selves.

pjwood1

Other companies are *selling* lithium ion batteries.

antrik

People have been asking this before. It would require some serious research, though — not something InsideEVs is likely to have the resources for…

Ziv

Revco has done some LiIion recycling but it sounds like it is simply too complex an operation to be revenue neutral so far, let alone profitable. So until there is an external source of funding, it won’t happen all that much.

SJC

Better to use worn packs for grid, we will find better recycle methods later.

antrik

That only makes sense if a meaningful remaining life can be expected in grid applications. Considering that these applications tend to have more daily cycling than EVs — along with the fact that many cell types have a fairly steep drop-off in remaining capacity past a certain point — I doubt it’s actually viable in most cases.

(It works though for batteries that are swapped for other reasons than wear, such as ZOE upgrades from 22 kWh to 40 kWh…)

Molty

Nobody will be trolling junkyards to take packs from car wrecks and put them into grid storage applications- aside from some DIYers looking to build off-grid systems for their cottages etc. A small fraction of packs returning to the OEMs from fleet or leased vehicles and on warranty returns etc. may end up in grid storage applications, but most post-consumer EV batteries will be recycled. And the value of the metals in the batteries virtually ensures that they will be recycled- much cheaper lead-acid car batteries are already 97% post consumer collected and recycled.

Ziv

Do you have a source for that assertion? Because from what I have read the materials to be recycled from LiIon batteries aren’t valuable enough to merit recycling without external credits or funding.

Mat

Reduce (less material for more kWh) – Reuse (battery second life, stationary) -Recycle The magical three Rs that every kindergartner knows 🙂

Btw, when I return my electric card for scrapping, will I get paid for what my battery is still worth?

antrik

If the value of the materials recovered is significantly above the cost of recycling, I’m sure that’s what we will see happening…

Mister G

Good idea this will create jobs for coal miners, oil rig workers, gasoline station attendants, truck drivers, etc…