Finnish energy company Fortum has announced new patented technology to recover lithium from rechargeable batteries.
This development, ahead of the expected surge in demand for electric cars and battery materials, comes eight months after Recycling International reported that Fortum, chemical giant BASF and mining group Nornickel were establishing a battery recycling network to serve the electric vehicle (EV) market.
Governments worldwide are backing EVs and, as an example, the UK announced ambitious plans earlier this month, to end the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2030.
Tero Holländer, Fortum’s head of business line, batteries, says its technology is a major development to support this growing demand for electric cars.
‘With our new patented technology, we are able to recover lithium from EV batteries in a more sustainable way but we will also have the capabilities to produce battery grade material on an industrial scale,’ he says.
‘The reclamation of lithium and other elements from recycled sources supplements the mining of scarce metals, improving the sustainability aspects of EV production and lowering the CO2 footprint of batteries produced.’
The company maintains there are few working, economically and sustainably viable technologies for recycling most of the materials in lithium-ion batteries, especially outside of the Asian continent. The global lithium-ion battery recycling market was worth about EUR 1.3 billion in 2019.
According to a forecast by the International Energy Agency, the number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads will increase from three million to 125 million by 2030.
Holländer adds, ‘Our new technology means we are sure to position Europe and especially Finland as one of the most competitive and sustainable options for battery material recycling and production in the world.’
In 2019, Fortum said it had achieved a recycling rate of over 80% for lithium-Ion battery materials with a low-CO2 hydrometallurgical recycling process to recover cobalt, nickel and manganese. Fortum operates a hydrometallurgical recycling facility in Harjavalta, Finland, which is already able to operate on an industrial scale.
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