Volkswagen Group Components begins battery recycling pilot
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Today, Volkswagen Group Components opened its first plant for recycling electric car batteries in Salzgitter. With the pilot plant, the VW Group says it demonstrates a committed step towards their goal of sustainable end-to-end responsibility for the entire value chain of the electric vehicle battery. The aim is the industrialized recovery of valuable raw materials such as lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt in a closed-loop together with aluminium, copper and plastics, achieving a recycling rate of more than 90% over the long term.
The Salzgitter plant's unique feature is that it only recycles batteries that can no longer be used for other purposes. Before the battery is recycled, an analysis determines whether the battery is still powerful enough to be given a second life in mobile energy storage systems such as the flexible, rapid charging station or the mobile charging robot. Larger volumes of battery returns are to be expected from the late 2020s at the earliest. The plant has been designed to initially recycle up to 3,600 battery systems per year during the pilot phase—this is the equivalent to more than 1,600 tons. In future, the system can be scaled up to handle larger quantities as the process is consistently optimized.
"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," said Thomas Schmall, Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, Technical Division, and Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Group Components. "We are implementing the sustainable, recyclable materials cycle—and play a pioneering role in the industry for a future-oriented issue with great potential for climate protection and raw material supply."
The innovative recycling process does not require energy-intensive melting in a blast furnace. The used battery systems are delivered, deep discharged, and dismantled. The 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 essential raw materials for batteries such as lithium, nickel, manganese, and cobalt, as well as graphite. The separation and processing of the individual substances by hydrometallurgical processes—using water and chemical agents—is subsequently carried out by specialized partners.
"As a consequence, essential components of old battery cells can be used to produce new cathode material," explains Mark Möller, Head of the Business Unit Technical Development & E-Mobility. "From research, we know that recycled battery raw materials are just as efficient as new ones. In the future, we intend to support our battery cell production with the material we recover. Given that the demand for batteries and the related raw materials will increase drastically, we can put every gram of recycled material to good use."