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Battery recycling conference takeaways

Despite industry interest, untested policies and tight competition pose risks to a nascent industry

01 August 2023

In the past month, SFA (Oxford) has presented at several industry leading battery recycling conferences. During this period, we have noticed the emergence of several common themes in this sector. Specifically, regulations in Europe that aim to improve material traceability and reporting in the form of battery passports are key factors that will influence the status quo in all aspects ranging from collection and dismantlement to black mass processing.

SFA’s views:

1. LiB recycling methods are improving but there is no convergence in sight.

    • Pre-treatment of battery cells is critical for improving black mass quality.

    • Discrepancies still exist on processes and effects of pre-treatment, including whether to
      discharge batteries or not.

    • Metal recycling processes have determined many of the available methods for lithium-ion
      battery (LiB) recycling.

    • Adapting existing recycling processes for LiB recycling is challenging, and it opens space for innovations in furnace design, solvent selection, and even new methods altogether as direct recycling.

    • Innovations in recycling processes will be driven by value addition, regulation compliance and feed diversity.

Dr Emilio Soberón

Principal Consultant


2. Collection and dismantlement of spent LiBs remains unsolved.

    • Hub & spoke models (as introduced by Li-Cycle) are being considered the optimal economic way to balance cost of collecting and ensuring feed volumes.

    • Consolidation of recycling players in China indicates limits to expansion and thus drives
      strategies on collection partnerships with existing “spokes”.

    • It is expected that OEMs will move away from welding due to inefficiencies in dismantling, but this trend remains unconfirmed.

    • Access to cells is critical for transparency and verification. The implementation of battery passports will impact pack design for ease of dismantling.


3. Diverse feed will reach all players.

    • Strict waste management rules in EU will likely affect the uptake of passport models in
      non-EU regions for enabling compliance.

    • Feed diversification will increase as more end-of-life (EoL) LiBs with varying cathode
      chemistries become available for recycling.

    • However, a longer-than-expected time for batteries to be available for recycling means
      that recyclers will have less freedom of choice to pick and choose their feed in the near term.

    • Growing trade of black mass and second-hand vehicles means that recyclers need
      to improve capacities for rapid feed testing and identification when facing their feed
      suppliers, and for material qualification when interacting with their customers. This
      testing burden is expected to ease over time with the implementation of the battery
      passport but will remain to a certain degree to ensure like-for-like reporting.


This article also includes SFA (Oxford)'s perspectives on the battery recycling markets, the challenges for recycling methods, trends in recycling logistics, and the state of play for recycling feed and output.


Read the full article here

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