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Major EV sustainability issue solved

Jul 11, 2019
A Finnish company - Fortum Recycling and Waste - says it is now able to recycle 80% of the materials used to produce batteries for electric vehicles.

Kalle SaarimaaThe current EU regulation on the recycling rate for batteries is only 50% of the total weight of the battery, which Fortum claims is insufficient to capture valuable materials such as nickel and cobalt and could threaten the viability of electric vehicles (EVs).

If the forecasts for the increase in EVs from 3 million to 125 million by 2030 hold true, it would mean an 800% increase in the demand for nickel and manganese and a 150% increase in the demand for cobalt for the production of new batteries. These scarce metals are present in very few locations and mining them would increase the greenhouse gas emissions from their production by 500%.

The company claims using recycled materials also reduces the CO2 emissions from battery production by up to 90%.

Kalle Saarimaa, Vice President of Fortum Recycling and Waste said, There are very few working, economically viable technologies for recycling the majority of materials used in lithium-ion batteries. We saw a challenge that was not yet solved and developed a scalable recycling solution for all industries using batteries.”

The chemical and mineral components of the battery form a ‘black mass’ that typically consists of a mixture of lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel in different ratios. Of these, nickel and especially cobalt are the most valuable, but also the most difficult to recover.

Fortum is also piloting so-called ‘second life’ applications for batteries; in these applications, the EV batteries are used for stationary energy storage after they are no longer fit for their original purpose.

 Photo: Kalle Saarimaa       

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