The development of battery dismantling and recycling technologies with high efficiencies well beyond the EU Battery Directives targets of 50 % for most battery technologies is essential to ensure the long-term sustainability of the battery economy by 2030. The ambition of BATTERY 2030+ is to develop a ground-breaking new recycling process compared with the state-of-the art.
This calls for new, innovative, simple and low-cost processes targeting a very high recycling rate, low carbon footprint and economic viability that will ensure a rather direct recovery of the active materials and single, instead of multistep, approaches. Furthermore, the new materials, interfaces/interphases and cell architectures developed in BATTERY 2030+, call for new recycling concepts, such as reconditioning or reusing electrodes and vice versa. Industrial participation will be brought early on board. To pave the way for such a shift, there will be a direct coupling to material suppliers, cell and battery manufacturers, main applications actors and recyclers to integrate the constraints of recycling in the new battery designs and manufacturing processes: (1) design-for-sustainability (including eco-design and economic and social aspects – considering the whole life cycle), (2) design-for-dismantling and (3) design-for-recycling approaches. In such a way, the BATTERY 2030+ roadmap will promote a circular economy with reduced waste, low CO2 footprint and more intelligent use of strategic resources.
It is the ambition of BATTERY 2030+ to trend to a new recycling model based on data collection and analysis, automated pack disassembly to cell level, wherever possible investigating re-use and re-purposing, automated cell disassembly to maximally individualized components, and development of selective powder recovery technologies and reconditioning them to battery grade active materials that as such are re-useable in batteries for automotive/stationary applications, with significantly reduced logistical efforts.
Direct Recycling fully integrated with re-use
Concluding over a time frame of ten years, a circular model will be developed, incorporating specific R&I actions, such as preparing a battery design for maximum longevity, considering re-calibration, refurbishing and the suitability for second life applications and multiple usages. Integrated sensing and possibly self-healing concepts can be used to identify damaged/aged components and prepare for their reuse. It will also include the development of concepts for the traceability especially of critical raw material throughout the entire cell life, as well as automated cell sorting and evaluation and development of efficient, single step, cheap and sustainable processes to recover valuable and critical materials. Artificial intelligence and sorting equipment will be required to be applied in selective recycling processes, but also versatile processes applicable to any battery technology will be looked for: the same approach to maximally recover battery components will be targeted even in case of chemistries such as metal-air and others.
The new process for recyclability will be the basis of a series of R&I actions with the main purpose to have direct recycling implemented in the long term.
In short term: Start building the integration of design for sustainability and dismantling, develop a system for data collection and analysis, develop technologies for battery packs/modules sorting and re-use/re-purposing and start the development of automated disassembly to battery cells. New tests to be developed for rapid cell characterisation.
In medium term: Automated cell disassembly into individual components will be developed as well as sorting and recovery technologies for powders and components and their reconditioning to new active battery grade materials advanced. Recovered materials will be tested in battery application. Predicting and modelling tools for re-use of the materials in a secondary application are to be developed.
In long term: A full system for direct recycling will be developed and qualified. Would the material/components not be suitable to be reconditioned to battery grade because of e.g. structural or purity constraints, a fall-back alternative in the last stage of the new process could be to convert them to precursors with an eventual change of composition ratio’s anticipating future chemistry changes and new generation materials.