Volkswagen announces the implementation of a large-scale project allowing the almost infinite recycling of the materials present in the Lithium-ion batteries of electric vehicles.
The issue of battery recycling is central to the design of electric cars. Indeed, approaching a 100% recycling rate (Tesla manages to recycle 92% of the materials in its batteries) will reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing an electric car. Indeed, the production of the Lithium-ion battery is the phase that emits the most greenhouse gases. Volkswagen wants to get ahead in this area by announcing the implementation of a super battery recycling project.
The German manufacturer is working with many researchers and private and public organizations in the country to try to find an innovative solution. The idea is to be able to recycle the batteries of electric cars indefinitely (or almost), without any loss. We are talking about closed loop recycling. This project is not so simple, since the current recycling processes all present more or less high losses. We end up with a lower quantity of functional materials than the battery before recycling. Above all, recycling deteriorates the purity of the materials and therefore their efficiency.
Inexpensive recycling for the Earth and builders
To achieve this, the various organizations will use the mechanical-hydrometallurgical method, which would be the least energy-intensive process and which would make it possible to decentralize the various processes across Europe. This is to successfully recycle batteries with the lowest possible impact on the environment. Of course, the aim of the project is also to reduce the cost of recycling to a minimum, so that it remains competitive with the manufacture of a battery whose materials would never have been used.
From a purely technical point of view, Volkswagen announces that all the materials constituting the battery should be able to be recycled. This thus implies the mechanical action making it possible to separate all the materials from each other, without loss, to the graphene used by the anode as well as the highly volatile compounds constituting the electrolyte (the liquid part of the cell). The manufacturer specifies that the separation of the graphene will have to be done with “almost no losses“. We would therefore not be on 100% recycling.
The hydrometallurgical phase will allow, for its part, by using water and solvents, to extract the lithium in a soluble form as well as the different metals present in the “black powder” constituting the battery cells. Volkswagen intends to take the opportunity to study the possibility of recycling batteries without separating the different metals from each other. The manufacturer specifies that the project will attempt to reuse a significant amount of graphene and the materials that make up the electrolyte in the recycled battery.
Recycling approaching 100% and infinity
As we see in detail, Volkswagen is not aiming for 100% recycling with this project, even if the manufacturer announces that it wants to approach this figure by trying to reuse the various materials present in the battery as much as possible. The first idea is to succeed in maintain sufficient quality of materials during recycling to allow the batteries to be recycled several times and not just once. There will always be loss and reduction in the purity of metals, unless a revolution intervenes in the meantime.
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