Volkswagen has opened its first EV battery recycling plant, recovering raw materials like lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt in a closed loop together with aluminium, copper and plastics.
The pilot operation at the firm’s facility in Salzgitter, Germany, will initially recycle up to 3,600 battery systems per year – the equivalent of about 1,500 tonnes – but has been designed to handle larger quantities of batteries as larger volumes of returns take place.
Before a battery is recycled, experts will analyse whether it is still powerful enough to be given a second life in mobile energy storage systems such as a flexible rapid charging station or a mobile charging robot.
The used battery systems are delivered, deep discharged, and dismantled and individual parts are ground into granules in the shredder and then dried.
In addition to aluminium, copper and plastics, the process also yields valuable “black powder”, which contains the important raw materials for batteries such as lithium, nickel, manganese, and cobalt, as well as graphite.
Specialist partners of Volkswagen then carry out the separation and processing of the individual substances by hydrometallurgical processes, using water and chemical agents.
Mark Möller, head of the business unit Technical Development & E-Mobility said, “As a consequence, essential components of old battery cells can be used to produce new cathode material.
“From research, we know that recycled battery raw materials are just as efficient as new ones. In future, we intend to support our battery cell production with the material we recover.
“Given that the demand for batteries and the corresponding raw materials will increase drastically, we can put every gram of recycled material to good use.”
The Salzgitter plant is aiming for a 90% recycle rate over the long term.
Thomas Schmall, member of the board of management of Volkswagen AG, technical division, and chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen Group Components, added, “Volkswagen Group Components has achieved a further step in its sustainable end-to-end responsibility for the battery as a key component of electric mobility.”