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BASF Collaboration to Develop Closed-Loop Process for Recycling EV Batteries

The ReLieVe project will develop and scale the process and structuring of an integrated industrial sector — from collection and recycling of end-of-life batteries, to the manufacturing of new electrode materials.

The “Recycling Li-ion batteries for electric Vehicle” (ReLieVe) project — co-founded by French multinational mining and metallurgy company Eramet; SUEZ, a France-based circular waste solutions provider; and BASF — is working to develop a closed-loop process to recycle lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles, and to enable the production of new lithium-ion batteries in Europe.

Over a two-year period starting January 2020, the ReLieVe project will work toward the large-scale development of this innovative process and the structuring of an integrated industrial sector — from the collection and dismantling of end-of-life batteries for recycling, all the way to the manufacturing of new electrode materials.

Furthering a closed-loop process for powering EVs

In 2018, BMW Group, Swedish energy startup Northvolt and Belgian materials giant Umicore formed a joint technology consortium to develop a circular value chain for EV battery cells in Europe. The consortium’s chief objective is to make battery cells sustainable by establishing a closed life cycle loop, starting with a recyclable cell design and continuing with a manufacturing process powered by renewable energy. The next step is designing cells for a long period of primary use as a drive battery, possibly followed by a secondary phase as stationary energy storage devices. At the end of their life cycle, the cells can be recycled and the raw materials reused, thereby completing the loop. With Northvolt focused on sustainable production; Umicore as a leader in the development and production of materials for battery cells and resource recycling, and the BMW Group’s expertise in material and cell design, it represents a value-chain-wide collaboration that sees the partners leveraging and complementing each other’s strengths.

With that consortium tackling the development of closed-loop battery cell design, the new BASF-Eramet-SUEZ partnership will build on that effort with its closed-loop process and infrastructure for collecting and dismantling these EV batteries at their end of life.

This value-chain-wide collaboration also supports an efficient and integrated approach — with SUEZ collecting and dismantling end-of-life batteries; Eramet developing the recycling process; and BASF manufacturing cathode active materials.

“As a leading cathode active material supplier to battery producers for electrified vehicles, BASF is confident that recycling will play an increasingly important role in the roll-out of electromobility,” said Daniel Schönfelder, VP of Business Management at BASF Battery Materials Europe. “We are committed to foster an innovative, sustainable and competitive battery value chain in Europe together with partners and will contribute our expertise in cathode material production to the project.”

Academic researchers from Chimie ParisTech and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology will support the members to accelerate the search for solutions. The industrial members will also be backed by the automotive sector, as part of the advisory committee.

The development of new European lithium-ion battery recycling capabilities will make it possible to respond to the strong growth of this market in the coming years and to the issue of securing Europe’s supply of raw materials required for its energy transition. Moreover, the virtuous recycling process meets the essential challenges of sustainable performance through its savings on raw materials.

“We are proud to bring our expertise and contribute to the recovery of end-of-life battery components through this partnership. Around 50,000 tons of batteries are expected to be recycled by 2027 in Europe and it could be multiplied almost tenfold by 2035. With the ReLieVe project, SUEZ is supporting the development of alternatives approaches that blend circular solutions with sustainable urban mobility,” added Jean-Marc Boursier, SUEZ COO and Senior Executive VP Group in charge of Northern Europe and IWS Europe.

The recovery of nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium elements into battery-quality products is at the center of Eramet Group’s current R&D developments.

“The ReLieVe project responds to the European Commission’s appeal to unite European players to position itself in the fast-growing lithium-ion battery market,” said Laurent Joncourt, Chairman of Eramet Ideas, the Group’s R&D Center. “Thanks to this funding, the ReLieVe project will be able to accelerate its work and progress towards the construction of a lithium-ion battery recycling sector with an innovative and competitive process on a European scale.”

Along with capital from the three members, ReLieVe will receive €4.7 million in funding from EIT RawMaterials — the largest consortium in the raw materials sector worldwide, initiated and funded by the European Union; whose mission is to enable sustainable competitiveness of the European minerals, metals and materials sector along the value chain by driving innovation, education and entrepreneurship.