In a breakthrough for sustainable EV battery manufacturing, Swedish company Northvolt has created the world’s first 100% recycled EV battery using only recycled battery waste.
The 100% recycled battery is a lithium-ion battery with a nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode, the most common cathode powder in EV batteries. The NMC cathode ensures the battery is interchangeable with existing, non-recycled batteries.
This is a huge leap forward for battery recycling, paving the pay for a closed-loop manufacturing process in the future.
Northvolt is a battery manufacturer with a difference – they are invested throughout the supply chain, adopting a wide spectrum of battery supply chain activities in-house. Their first gigafactory is being built in northern Sweden.
To make the 100% recycled EV battery, Northvolt gathered waste from its lithium-ion recycling program, Revolt, breaking down materials to extract cobalt, manganese and nickel with a hydrometallurgical treatment.
“What we have shown here is a clear pathway to closing the loop on batteries and that there exists a sustainable, environmentally-preferable alternative to conventional mining to source raw materials for battery production,” Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s chief environmental officer, said in a media statement.
The future of EV batteries
Battery recycling is a notoriously expensive process, with high costs driven by complexities in material extraction and purification at scale.
In theory, the waste from the current generation of EV batteries could be used to create a closed-loop manufacturing cycle for the next generation of EV batteries. It looks like Northvolt thinks the same, with plans to transition all battery manufacturing to 50% recycled materials by 2030.
Scaling up battery recycling is the next stage, requiring significant investment in recycling facilities. UK company Technology Minerals is doing just that.
While recycling is necessary to reduce emissions in the supply chain, graphene EV batteries can potentially last twice as long, so if we really want to reduce waste from EV batteries, we have to transition from conventional lithium-ion chemistries to more sustainable chemistries.