As electric vehicle production heats up, where will retired battery materials go? Ideally, back into the supply chain.
The coming surge of EVs will lead to a massive opportunity to create a "reverse supply chain." Battery recycling — especially recovering valuable rare elements for reuse — must become an essential component of the electrification landscape.
The Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory projects that in less than a decade, 2 million tons of end-of-life lithium ion batteries from EVs will be retired each year in the U.S.
To keep pace with aggressive EV growth plans, automakers and suppliers have outlined strategies for sourcing, processing and building batteries. Establishing sustainable recycling is a critical next step in the EV revolution. The U.S. auto industry should start planning for the reuse of these materials now to reduce pressure to boost mining.
Today there are only a handful of players in the battery recycling space; more startups and automaker-supplier partnerships should emerge over time.
This week's issue examines two companies with a head start in battery recycling — Redwood Materials and Li-Cycle. Li-Cycle divides used batteries into three streams: plastics, metals and a black mass of materials containing valuable elements including lithium and cobalt. The company reuses those black-mass materials to make new batteries.