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A Volkswagen-led research consortium will look into whether the most valuable components in batteries can be recovered and reused several times.

While battery recycling is becoming a hot topic in the automotive industry, most companies are limiting themselves to reusing components once. 

However, the HVBatCycle research consortium, consisting of VW, TANIOBIS GmbH, J. Schmalz GmbH, and Viscom AG, as well academics from Aachen University, are looking at keeping cathode metals, electrolyte and graphite permanently in a closed material cycle.

“The recycling of batteries and production rejects makes a decisive contribution to securing the supply of raw materials for our planned factories. Through the HVBatCycle project, a holistic view of the recycling processes and thereby the implementation of the closed-loop of battery materials are being prepared,” Sebastian Wolf, Chief Operating Officer Battery Cell at Volkswagen AG. 

The consortium will focus on mechanical-hydrometallurgical recycling processes, which require less energy and could entail the possibility of a “comparatively” simple decentralisation of the recycling processes around Europe. 

The project also aims to find efficient processes and innovative solutions that could lead to an end-to-end value chain, saving money whilst maximising output and energy efficiency, and minimising the environmental impact. 

The consortium will look into recycling graphite and battery metals using water and chemical solvents and extracting lithium in a soluble form. It will also investigate the leaching, precipitation, and refining of contained metals as a mixed hydroxide concentrate. The group hopes that it will be able to demonstrate that important electrolyte components and graphite can be efficiently processed and used again in battery-suitable quality.

Despite being led by VW, the project is being funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. Michael Kellner, Parliamentary State Secretary said:

“European battery production can only be successful if it focuses on sustainability in as many areas as possible. Sustainable batteries are crucial for an energy and transport transition that is guided by high environmental and social standards.”

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