Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - 18

CLOSING THE
LOOP ON
EV BATTERY
RECYCLING
Recycling battery materials is vital to the
electric-vehicle future, but the way forward
faces a host of hurdles.
by Jim Motavalli
D
evelopment of a robust electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling
industry has moved from a net-positive sideline to a
necessity as automakers, and their suppliers, transition
away from internal combustion. Experts say that global
mining operations are simply not on track to produce the virgin raw
materials needed to meet the dramatic ramping up of the world's
battery production. Additionally, the sourcing of these materials raises
numerous red flags in terms of conditions for workers, site pollution,
geopolitical complications and concentration of ownership.
The good news is that the Biden Administration's recently enacted
Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives for automakers to use
recycled minerals in their batteries. Startup companies, including one
founded by the former longtime CTO at Tesla, are taking on the recycling
challenge and partnering with carmakers. Automakers are also
concentrating on proven technologies such as hydrometallurgy (often,
leaching, which involves immersing the cells in acid to dissolve
the acids into a solution) and pyrometallurgy (burning and smelting),
to efficiently recover a very high percentage of key metals from used
lithium-ion (li-ion) EV batteries. But there's a conundrum: battery
companies are working to reduce the amount of problematic, hardto-source
metals in their cells, which has the potential to also reduce
their viability for cost-effective recycling.
Another approach, which has drawn federal research funding, is
direct recycling or recovery, with the advantage of retaining the
18 October 2022
intact cathode material. According to Jeffrey
Spangenberg, the materials recycling group leader in
the applied materials division of Argonne National
Laboratory and head of the national ReCell Center
R&D initiative, the hydrometallurgy process destroys
the cathode. " If we can keep the cathode as a cathode
then it can go right back into a battery and save
quite a bit of money, " he explained. " But there are a
lot of challenges with it. For instance, battery cars are
likely to last 20 years, in which time technology
doesn't stand still. We have to figure out how to
make old cathodes marketable. "
Problematic materials
One key aspect of the looming materials problem is in
the need for nickel, which often gets overlooked as the
focus is on lithium and, to a lesser extent, on cobalt.
According to Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst
for e-mobility at Guidehouse Insights, for every 100
kilowatt-hours of battery in an EV, 61 to 66 kilograms of
nickel are needed. If EV penetration reached 100% (unlikely
until the 2040s) roughly 5.8 million metric tons of
nickel would be needed annually if we rely solely on
AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERING
New battery cells
proceeding through
the final manufacturing
stage at the GM-LG
Energy Solution Ultima
Cells factory in Ohio.

Automotive Engineering - October 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive Engineering - October 2022

Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - Intro
Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - Sponsor1
Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - CVRA
Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - CVRB
Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - CVR1
Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - CVR2
Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - 1
Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - 2
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Automotive Engineering - October 2022 - CVR4
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