• Recycling
  • Advanced Batteries
  • lithium ion batteries
  • EV

Recycling Lithium Batteries Takes Shape

Ian McClenny
Oct 19, 2018

Batteries

Early markets for advanced batteries opened around 2010, and the industry is now seeing its first major wave of retired advanced battery assets. Navigant Research notes in its latest report that historically, advanced battery original equipment manufacturers, vendors, end users, and even legacy battery recycling companies did not consider this in their business model. While there is great debate on how to best mitigate spent battery assets (covered in a previous blog), this is an opportunity for advanced battery stakeholders to integrate responsible, profitable business practices into their go-to-market strategies.

Around the World Recycling

Approximately 50% of spent lithium ion (Li-ion) battery assets are recovered and recycled in Europe, China, South Korea, and Japan. In contrast, less than 5% of all Li-ion battery assets are recycled in the US. While cobalt and lithium are thought to be the two most valuable metals found in Li-ion batteries (with consumption of both reportedly outpacing production in the past 5 years), other metals like iron, nickel, aluminum, and magnesium also have positive revenue implications when recycled. Still, the US lacks the domestic supply of both lithium and cobalt.

Companies Getting Involved

Notably, materials recycling specialist Axion recently partnered with Aspire Engineering and Aceleron to develop recycle and reuse strategies for spent Li-ion batteries used in EV and light automotive applications. With an estimated 100,000 plus battery packs across both sectors to be retired in the next decade, these three companies are offering full service for end-of-life batteries to mitigate complexity, cost, safety, and energy intensity issues associated with retiring Li-ion. A joint facility based at Axion’s recycling sites in Manchester, England will receive batteries collected from customers. They will be assessed for reuse potential using Aceleron’s testing methods and Aspire’s engineering and process operating model for disassembly and rebuild. Batteries that have usable life remaining will be reconfigured and/or reused for applications deemed suitable by Aspire or Aceleron. The remaining cells will be recycled through Axion.

Additionally, SungEel MCC (SMCC) announced the location of its first plant for the North American Li-ion battery, e-waste recycling, energy, and metals markets. The Endicott, New York plant is to be located in the Huron Campus, formerly the IBM-Endicott facility. SMCC will use more than $1.75 million in incentives from New York State and reportedly create more than 100 research, engineering, and manufacturing jobs.

Advanced battery stakeholders must further consider how to make recycling more safe, productive, and even profitable. The materials used in manufacturing must be evaluated for how they could be inexpensively used after their primary life has passed. Removal of the risks inherent in the raw material markets through providing alternate end-of-life resources could provide the stability and sustainability necessary for a long-standing grid resource. Companies are realizing that this untapped market has the potential to reap environmental and financial benefits to stakeholders down the advanced battery value chain.