Automotive Engineering - March 2022 - 34

Q&
A
Establishing closed-loop EV battery recycling
Last spring, Clarios, formerly known as Johnson Controls
and now the world's largest automotive battery maker,
emerged a winner in the second phase of the Lithium-Ion
Battery Recycling Prize competition. The three-phase program,
sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, aims to develop
and demonstrate processes that, when scaled, have
the potential to profitably capture 90% of all discarded or
spent lithium-based batteries in the U.S., and re-introduce
key recycled materials into the U.S. supply chain.
Clarios' winning concept for the DoE prize (worth a total of
$5.5 million) focuses on developing and applying technologies
to identify and separate lithium-ion
batteries from lead-acid
types, ensuring proper and safe
recycling methods for each chemistry.
In Phase III of the competition,
Clarios aims to validate its
concept in pilot programs.
Adam Muellerweiss is Clarios'
chief sustainability officer and also
serves as president of the
Responsible Battery Coalition, a
group of automotive OEMs, large
fleet owners, auto-parts stores and
other retailers working to build a
closed-loop recycling network for
lithium batteries. He spoke with editor
Lindsay Brooke about the challenges
and opportunities for recycling
hybrid and EV batteries (read
the full interview on SAE.org).
Clarios has over 100 years of experience
in recycling lead-acid batteries,
at a rate of 99%. Are there
learnings you are applying to hybrid
and EV batteries?
Yes. Our experience began before
Daimler and Benz built their first
motorcycle [1885]. Today, we're at
about the same point in the process
with recycling advanced lithium
batteries as we were back then.
Currently, our process can separate
that wide spectrum of materials,
but the technology isn't yet at the
'holy grail' stage: the ability to harvest
battery-grade materials and
turn them right back into samegrade
materials for new batteries.
The circular or closed-loop supply
chain for lead-acid relies on the
ability of people to return their
34 March 2022
used batteries. Over 80 percent of the materials that we use
for new batteries are recycled lead and polypropylene. Future
recycling demand will require all types of batteries and chemistries.
At Clarios we're really focused on ensuring the right
chemistry for the right application across its lifecycle.
To what degree are the nickel metal-hydride batteries used
in millions of Priuses in the recycling stream?
Hybrids' battery pack value is proven. Prius batteries don't sit
in junkyards. They're being collected and rebuilt for taxicab
use in many of the early Priuses out there, and for aftermarket
service batteries.
We're seeing a lot of second life in
the batteries' original application
because those packs were designed,
validated, and tested to automotive
grade, and proven to be safe in use.
So, while the discussions about using
the packs for another energystorage
source, perhaps stationary
applications, might be an interesting
topic, the batteries were really designed
for use in vehicles. What
we're seeing as the most likely trend
to emerge is batteries being used to
extend the life of the vehicle. It's the
same industry experience as remanufactured
transmissions, engines and
other components.
Adam
Muellerweiss
The technology isn't
yet at the 'holy grail'
stage: the ability to
harvest battery-grade
materials and turn them
right back into samegrade
materials for new
batteries.
So, the ball is rolling?
Yes, that's where the DoE Lithium
competition is so exciting. They
have very smart people with some
incredible tools looking at those
'holy grail' opportunities. Argonne
National Laboratory's ReCell Center
is focused on taking those 'used'
materials and turning them into
battery-grade materials. We're not
quite there yet but we know we're
on the evolutionary path. And once
you have used batteries in hand,
you need to aggregate them across
major markets, across the country.
That requires transporting them, in
some cases storing them to wait for
available capacity or just to manage
material flow.
There has to be an underlying infrastructure,
long-term, to handle a large
magnitude of batteries. The scale
that's required currently isn't there.
AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERING
CLARIOS
http://www.SAE.org

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