BASF, Fortum and Nornickel are planning a recycling centre in Finland that would recover metals from electric car batteries.
With the number of electric cars rising dramatically – up 63% in 2018 to 5m vehicles – there is the need for more efficient methods to recover and reuse the valuable elements in their batteries. Last year, the IEA projected under a conservative scenario that in 2030 the number of electric cars in the world could exceed 130m.
The partners have signed a letter of intent to plan a battery recycling cluster in Harjavalta that would use a low-CO2 hydrometallurgical process powered by renewable energy. BASF would reuse the recovered materials in a battery materials precursor plant it plans to build onsite.
“The combination of battery materials production and recycling enables the circular economy by closing the loop,” said Tim Ingle, Vice President, Precious Metals Refining, Chemicals & Battery Recycling, at BASF. “To drive electrification, we are focussed on bringing solutions for high energy density cathode active materials and high efficiency lithium extraction for battery recycling.”
Fortum’s process, which was developed by the firm Crisolteq that it bought in January, extends the recovery rate of materials from lithium ion batteries from 50% to over 80%. The process begins by first separating out the plastics, aluminium and copper from the batteries. What is left is known as “black mass” that consists of a mixture of lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel. Fortum says its process involves a chemical precipitation technique that allows it to recover the nickel and cobalt that most other recycling techniques are unable to recover.
“By recycling valuable metals in lithium-ion batteries we reduce the environmental impact of electric car batteries by complementing the supply of cobalt, nickel and other critical metals from primary sources,” said Tero Holländer, Head of Business Development, Fortum Recycling and Waste.
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