The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety recently awarded €5.7 million (US$8.4 million) to Chemetall Lithium, a unit of Rockwood Holdings Inc., to set up a pilot plant for the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. Chemetall will provide additional funds to bring the total investment above €10 million.
Chemetall is part of a consortium of companies participating in “LithoRec”, a research and development project related to the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. As few electric vehicles have entered the market, there is limited knowledge and expertise on the collecting and recycling of large lithium-ion batteries. Existing techniques concentrate on the recycling of lithium-ion batteries for portable electronics with low recycling rates and little to no recovery of lithium, according to Chemetall. Currently there is no process for the recycling of automotive batteries for electric cars, especially for the recovery of lithium out of cathode material and electrolytes.
The main target of the LithoRec project is the development and approval of recycling technologies for lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. The consortium of companies will follow a comprehensive approach following the entire life cycle of a battery, starting with a recycling-friendly battery design through the final recovery of battery materials that can be used in the production of new batteries.
LithoRec aims for high recycling efficiency of large-scale automotive batteries for the automotive industry in Germany and Europe. In addition to ecological considerations, the project aims to secure the supply of battery raw materials like lithium and cobalt. Project partners include:
- Audi AG, Ingolstadt
- Chemetall GmbH, Frankfurt
- Electrocycling GmbH, Goslar
- Evonik Litarion GmbH, Kamenz
- Walch Recycling & Edelmetallhandel GmbH & Co. KG, Baudenbach
- H. C. Strack GmbH, Goslar
- I+ME ACTIA GmbH, Braunschweig
- Recylex GmbH, Goslar
- Süd-Chemie AG, Moosburg
- Volkswagen AG, Wolfsburg
- Technische Universität Braunschweig
- Universität Münster
Total funding for LithoRec is around €8.4 million (US$12.4); the project runs through September 2011.
In the US, the Department of Energy recently awarded TOXCO Incorporated US$9.5 million to build and operate an advanced lithium battery recycling facility at their existing Lancaster, Ohio site. The award was part of the large $2.4-billion, 48-project package announced in August. (Earlier post.)
Toxco is currently the only facility in North America with the capability to recycle both primary and secondary lithium batteries. Toxco’s existing lithium battery recycling operation is located in Trail, British Columbia. Additionally, Toxco manages two battery recycling operations in Ohio. The Lancaster, Ohio facility currently processes large format lead acid batteries, as well as nickel metal hydride batteries used in the current population of hybrid and electric vehicles. This facility is also only one of two technologies in North America that can recycle nickel cadmium batteries, which is a common consumer type of rechargeable battery. The recovery process used in Lancaster for the nickel cadmium batteries is deemed to be a “Best Demonstrated Available Technology” per US EPA.