Need for better battery recycling spurs industry projects in Germany and Europe
Several new industry initiatives aimed at improving battery lifetime in e-cars and other applications show the growing awareness in Germany and elsewhere that better recycling and second life solutions are needed, Jens Tartler writes in energy policy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background. Engineering company IAV is working on a procedure to expand recycling standards, from the treatment of modules and casings up to the battery cell level, and its efforts are being spurred on by growing interest from car companies and other battery users for whom "recycling is becoming a distinctive feature that sets you apart from your competitors," IAV's Michael Clauß said.
Other companies, such as Belgium’s Umicore – which introduced pioneering concepts in battery recycling and also entered into manufacturing itself – German carmaker Volkswagen, Finnish energy company Fortum and Swedish battery producer Northvolt are all working on ways to better manage the expected surge in old lithium-ion batteries that comes with the emerging boom in electric mobility and growing home storage use. While battery recycling is currently still dominated by smaller units, such as for e-bikes or electric home tools, the lifespan of home storage and car batteries suggests that more substantial volumes will accrue in the next 10 to 15 years. This has led battery researchers such as Arno Kwade of TU Braunschweig to conclude that "we won't be able to implement e-mobility sustainably without a circular economy." European programmes, such as the Horizon 2020 research, are not yet up to the task, Kwade added. Concepts such as using old car batteries as home storage to form a "cloud" for solar power are key to prolonging battery life and making the best use of available resources. However, this will require thorough rethinking in battery manufacturing to make their use more flexible, Tartler writes.