Northvolt produces first recycled battery
Revolt cell with 100% recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt Metal Tech News – November 17, 2021
Last updated 11/23/2021 at 3:42pm
European battery supplier Northvolt Nov. 12 announced that its recycling program, Revolt, has produced its first lithium-ion battery cell featuring a nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode entirely from recovered battery waste.
"What we have shown here is a clear pathway to closing the loop on batteries and that there exists a sustainable, environmentally-preferable alternative to conventional mining in order to source raw materials for battery production," said Emma Nehrenheim, chief environmental officer at Northvolt and head of Revolt. "The recycling process can recover up to 95% of the metals in a battery to a level of purity on par with fresh virgin material. What we need now is to scale-up recycling capacities in anticipation of future volumes of batteries requiring recycling."
Conveniently, all recycling and production processes can be completed on a single site at Northvolt Labs in Västerås, Sweden. Thus, it stands as a breakthrough for the battery industry and a milestone for Northvolt in its mission to establish a sustainable supply of lithium batteries to power the electric vehicles and store the renewable energy that support the decarbonization of the world.
Recycling nickel, manganese, and cobalt metals used in the battery cell were recovered from battery waste through a low-energy hydrometallurgical treatment which involves the use of an aqueous solution to isolate the metals and separate them from impurities.
Having proved the validity and efficiency of this process, Northvolt now seeks to scale up its recycling capabilities to fulfill its aim of producing cells with 50% recycled material by 2030.
To secure this, Revolt Ett, the company's first giga-scale recycling plant under development adjacent to Northvolt Ett gigafactory in Skellefteå, Sweden, will be expanded beyond its initial design to enable recycling of 125,000 tons of batteries per year.
Construction is expected to begin first-quarter 2022 and operations in 2023; the recycling plant will receive incoming material for recycling from two sources – end-of-life batteries from electric vehicles and production scrap from Northvolt.
In addition to becoming Europe's largest battery recycling plant, Revolt will be the only large-scale facility in the continent capable of recycling lithium in addition to nickel, manganese, cobalt, and other metals. The recovered materials from the facility will then return to Northvolt to supply the cell manufacturing gigafactory with metals sufficient for 30 gigawatt-hours of battery production per year – half of Northvolt's current total annual cell output.
Alongside direct delivery of nickel, manganese, cobalt, and lithium metals for Northvolt's battery production, Revolt will also recover copper, aluminum, and plastics from the batteries as well, all of which will be recirculated back into manufacturing flows through local third parties.
"As the electric vehicle revolution gains speed, we should be mindful that some 250,000 tons of batteries will reach their end-of-life in Europe by 2030," said the Revolt head. "In this, some see challenges and obstacles. At Northvolt, we see opportunity. Similar to how we've found novel, sustainable solutions for the handling of salt byproduct at Northvolt Ett – treating it as a valuable product and not waste – the same is true with end-of-life batteries."
You can read about the unique methods Northvolt is utilizing with recycling at A greener use for Northvolt battery waste in the October 20, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.
"Ultimately, a commitment to circularity will not only significantly reduce the environmental impacts of the battery industry, but also contribute to our vision to set a new benchmark for sustainability in manufacturing," finished Nehrenheim.