When electric cars go mainstream, the industry should be ready to recycle their batteries.

Three companies, Fortum, BASF, and Nornickel (nickel refinery) have signed a letter of intent to plan an electric car battery recycling cluster in Harjavalta, Finland.

The idea is to develop a successful “closed loop” cycle to re-use the critical metals (like cobalt and nickel) present in used lithium-ion batteries.

The end-of-life battery modules would be dismantled to extract valuable metals needed to produce new cathode active materials. BASF plans to launch a battery materials precursor plant in Harjavalta, Finland as well as in Schwarzheide, Germany.

"Using metals from recycled batteries to produce battery materials offers significant CO2 reduction in the production of electric vehicles. Additional CO2 reduction can be achieved by using electricity from renewable sources in Finland for the recycling process."

"The parties aim to foster the production and use of responsibly produced recycled raw materials in the battery market."

Fortum is promising that the new hydrometallurgical technology, developed by Finnish company Crisolteq (acquired by Fortum) allows increasing the recovery rate of valuable materials in lithium-ion batteries from 50% to over 80%.

Fortum, BASF, Nornickel battery recycling

Tero Holländer, Head of Business Development, Fortum Recycling and Waste said:

“By recycling valuable metals in lithium-ion batteries we reduce the environmental impact of electric car batteries by complementing the supply of cobalt, nickel and other critical metals from primary sources. Through our previous acquisition of a Finnish growth company Crisolteq, an expert in low CO2 hydrometallurgical processing, we are very proud that Fortum is now able to increase the recovery rate of valuable materials in lithium-ion batteries from 50% to over 80%”.

Tim Ingle, Vice President, Precious Metals Refining, Chemicals & Battery Recycling, at BASF said:

“The combination of battery materials production and recycling enables the circular economy by closing the loop. To drive electrification, we are focused on bringing solutions for high energy density cathode active materials and high efficiency lithium extraction for battery recycling.”

Joni Hautojärvi, Managing Director, Nornickel Harjavalta said:

“A modern recycling unit next to Nornickel Harjavalta would further strengthen its position as one of the most sustainable nickel refineries in the world. This setup is ideal for sustainable processing of two of the main metals used in Li-ion batteries. Development of recycling solutions will not only support Nornickel’s strategy of further lowering its CO2 footprint and improving sustainability, but it is also essential to enable the industry to meet the growing demand of critical metals in the electric vehicle sector,”.