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Honda develops process to reuse rare earth metals extracted from old NiMH batteries for new NiMH batteries for hybrid vehicles

Honda’s process for recycling NiMH batteries. The new portion of the process is outlined in red. Click to enlarge.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has established what it says it is the first process to reuse rare earth metals extracted from old nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries for new nickel-metal hydride batteries for use in hybrid vehicles.

Honda has been extracting an oxide containing rare earth metals from used nickel-metal hydride batteries at the plant of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd. (JMC). (Earlier post.) Now, by applying molten salt electrolysis to this oxide, Honda has succeeded in extracting metallized rare earth that can be used directly as negative-electrode materials for nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Such a process has been of interest for some time. For example, the German government more than 10 years ago funded a processing and feasibility study for the development of a pyrometallurgical closed-loop recycling process for metal recovery from Ni-MH batteries. (Müller and Friedrich)

The rare earth metals extracted in the Honda process have a purity of more than 99% which is as high as that of ordinary traded, newly mined rare earth metals. In addition, the new process enables the extraction of as much as above 80% of rare earth metals contained in nickel-metal hydride battery.

Under the newly established process, the extracted rare earth metals will be supplied from JMC to a battery manufacturer in early March, which will reuse them as negative-electrode materials for nickel-metal hydride batteries for hybrid vehicles.

The rare earth metals were extracted from nickel-metal hydride batteries collected from 386 Honda hybrid vehicles that were stored prior to being on sale but became unusable by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

As soon as a sufficient volume is secured, Honda will begin applying the same process and recycle rare earth metals extracted from used nickel-metal hydride batteries collected by Honda dealers through battery replacement.

Honda strives to extract rare earth metals not only from nickel-metal hydride batteries but also from various used parts to achieve the further recycling of limited and precious resources.




Recycling rare earth metals will help keep China from playing an OPEC.

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