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Can battery giants recycle half of all precious battery metals?

Swedish firm Northvolt says it plans to combine mass production of battery cells with recycling. The company, managed by former Tesla manager Peter Carlsson, has created the Revolt programme to achieve this goal.

As a first step, Northvolt is building a pilot plant at the Northvolt Labs site in Västerås. The new site is scheduled to go into operation at the start of next year – with an initial recycling capacity of 100 tonnes per year, handling NMC and NCA lithium-ion chemistries.

Northvolt will also commission a large recycling plant in Skellefteå, where its  battery cell factory is located, in 2022. The aim is to recycle around 25 000 tonnes of battery cells a year at this site.

Company ceo Peter Carlsson says both projects are meant to help realise Northvolt’s ambition to use at least 50% of recycled battery materials in new cells by 2030. He adds that EIT InnoEnergy has invested EUR 5.8 million in the Revolt recycling programme.

‘The pilot plant will build on work undertaken over the last two years and provide us the necessary tools to take us to the next level – from research laboratories into the real-world,’ comments Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s chief environmental officer.

She points out the innovative hydrometallurgical treatment was tested and enhanced in close collaboration with researchers at Chalmers University of Technology. This process will be able to extract valuable battery metals like lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt.

‘It is clear that recycling batteries at end-of-life is critical to delivering a comprehensive model for sustainable lithium-ion batteries,’ Carlsson reasons. ‘With this programme, Northvolt will be able to recover valuable materials from cells and return them to manufacturing flows. Recycling will reduce the need for mining raw materials, improve security of supply and lower the environmental footprint of Northvolt cells by reducing mining-related emissions.’

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