Northvolt shows first fully recycled battery cell

Northvolt shows first fully recycled battery cell

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Northvolt has produced its first lithium ion battery cell with 100 percent recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt and now aims to scale up recycling facilities in Sweden.

Following material validation, electrochemical performance testing of cells produced with recycled metals demonstrates performance on par with cells produced with freshly-mined metals

Through its Revolt recycling programme, the company aims to expand its recycling plant capacity to enable recycling of 125,000 tons of batteries per year, amounting to approximately 30 GWh of battery production per year

The nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode was produced with metals recovered through the recycling of battery waste at Northvolt Labs in Västerås, Sweden. Northvolt, which is building several battery gigafactories across Europe, sees the development as a breakthrough for the battery industry and a milestone for the sustainable supply of batteries.

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“What we have shown here is a clear pathway to closing the loop on batteries and that there exists a sustainable, environmentally-preferable alternative to conventional mining in order to source raw materials for battery production,” said Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s Chief Environmental Officer and head of Revolt. “The recycling process can recover up to 95 percent of the metals in a battery to a level of purity on par with fresh virgin material. What we need now is to scale-up recycling capacities in anticipation of future volumes of batteries requiring recycling.”

Recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt metals used in the battery cell were recovered from battery waste through a low-energy hydrometallurgical treatment which involves the use of an aqueous solution to isolate the metals and separate them from impurities.

The recycling capacities will be scaled up to produce cells with 50 percent recycled material by 2030 at Revolt Ett, the company’s first giga-scale recycling plant under development adjacent to Northvolt Ett gigafactory in Skellefteå, Sweden.

The recycling plant will be expanded beyond its initial design to enable recycling of 125,000 tons of batteries per year and construction will start early next year with operations in 2023. It will receive incoming material for recycling from end-of-life batteries from electric vehicles and production scrap from Northvolt Ett.

In addition to becoming Europe’s largest battery recycling plant, Revolt Ett will be the only large-scale facility in Europe capable of recycling lithium in addition to nickel, manganese, cobalt and other metals. Recovered materials from Revolt Ett will supply neighbouring Northvolt Ett cell manufacturing gigafactory with recycled metals sufficient for 30 GWh of battery production per year, half of Northvolt Ett’s total annual cell output.

As well as recovering nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium metals, Revolt Ett will recycle copper, aluminium and plastics from the batteries and materials it recycles – all of which will be recirculated back into manufacturing flows through local third-parties.

“As the electric vehicle revolution gains speed, we should be mindful that some 250,000 tons of batteries will reach their end-of-life in Europe by 2030,” said Nehrenheim. “Similar to how we’ve found novel, sustainable solutions for the handling of salt byproduct at Northvolt Ett, treating it as a valuable product and not waste, the same is true with end-of-life batteries. Ultimately, a commitment to circularity will not only significantly reduce the environmental impacts of the battery industry, but also contribute to our vision to set a new benchmark for sustainability in manufacturing.”

Northvolt has raised $27bn in contracts from key customers, including BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volkswagen, Volvo Cars and Polestar.

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