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The Swedish battery company Northvolt said on Friday that they had produced their first battery cell with what they described as “100% recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt”.
In a statement, the company, headquartered in Stockholm ̵[ads1]1; which has attracted investments from Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen, among others – said that the lithium-ion battery cell was produced by the recycling program Revolt.
The cell’s nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode had been produced using metals “recovered through battery waste recycling.” Tests showed that the performance was on a par with cells made from newly recovered metals, Northvolt said.
On Friday, the company said that the design of its own recycling plant would be expanded so that it could recycle 125,000 tonnes of batteries annually.
The construction of the facility, called Revolt Ett, is planned to start in the first quarter of 2022, with operations starting in 2023.
It will use materials from discontinued EV batteries as well as scrap from Northvolt Ett, the company’s gig factory, where the first battery is expected to be produced before the end of 2021. Both plants will be located in Skellefteå, northern Sweden.
According to the company, the Revolt plant will be able to recycle materials including lithium, cobalt, manganese and nickel, and supply the gig factory in the process.
In addition, plastics, copper and aluminum will also be recycled and “recycled back into production streams through local third parties.”
In a telephone interview with CNBC, Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s environmental manager, said: “Theoretically, by definition, you can recycle any metal you have in a battery and make a new battery out of it.”
“As a basic strategy, this means that when the market for electric cars is mature – so at that time [an] the same amount of cars will enter the street as the amount of cars that have to be discarded or sent for recycling – you can actually, in theory, have a very, very high recycling rate … of batteries. “
“And this means that you will not be subject to a very liquid commodity market, and you will also protect yourself from very high footprints,” said Nehrenheim, who is also head of Revolt.
Northvolt’s plans come at a time when the transition to electric vehicles is beginning to pick up speed.
This week, the signatories said in a statement at the COP26 climate summit that they would “work to ensure that all sales of new cars and vans have zero emissions globally by 2040, and no later than 2035 in leading markets”.
While the US, China and car manufacturers including Volkswagen and Toyota were absent from the declaration, the signatories included British, Mexican and Canadian authorities and major car companies such as Ford, General Motors and Volvo Cars.
As global supply chains face severe pressure due to a number of factors, the idea of recycling materials and developing a circular economy is starting to become an attractive proposition for some businesses, including those in the electric car sector.
In March this year, Lucien Mathieu, from the Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment, tried to highlight the potential of recycling in the electric car industry.
In a statement on T & E’s website, he said: “Unlike today’s fossil-powered cars, electric car batteries are part of a circular economy loop where battery materials can be reused and recycled to produce more batteries.”
Recycling of battery materials, Mathieu argued, was crucial in reducing “the pressure on primary demand for virgin materials” and limiting “the impact raw material extraction can have on the environment and on local communities.”
“Much more local”
Northvolts Nehrenheim was asked how important she felt ideas about recycling and a circular economy would be in the future.
“I think this is going to be the key driver for any new industry,” she said. “There will be no disruptive technology that can live without this, and I believe that in the long run … recycled materials in any industry will compete with others.”
“In the long run, it will be much more profitable when the processes are established to use only one product to produce a new product,” she continued.
“You reduce dependence … on the commodity market, you have a much more sustainable source … it’s much more local.”