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Volkswagen's battery recycling pilot plant
Volkswagen's battery recycling pilot plant

Volkswagen opens first plant for recycling electric car batteries

  • At the Volkswagen plant, used battery systems are delivered, deep discharged, and dismantled. Its individual parts are ground into granules in the shredder and then dried.
  • Then, chemical processes are carried out for separation and processing of the individual substances from the dismantled battery.

Volkswagen Group has opened its first plant for recycling electric car batteries in Salzgitter, Germany. The goal of the pilot plant is to achieve a closed-loop process for recovering valuable raw materials from lithium-ion batteries such as lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt together with aluminium, copper and plastics.

The aim is to achieve a recycling rate of more than 90% over the long term. At the Salzgitter factory, an analysis of a battery is carried out before it goes for recycling. If the battery is still powerful enough, it is given a second life in mobile energy storage systems such as the flexible rapid charging station or the mobile charging robot. Thus, only the batteries that can no longer be used for other purposes are recycled.

During the pilot phase, the plant has been designed to initially recycle up to 3,600 battery systems per year - equivalent to approximately 1,500 tonnes. This is because larger volumes of battery returns are not expected until the late 2020s at the earliest. The system can be scaled up to handle larger quantities of batteries in the future,as the process is consistently optimised.

(Also read | Volkswagen’s EV sales target suggests Tesla gap could close this year)

Separate substances obtained from dismantled battery system
Separate substances obtained from dismantled battery system

The battery recycling process does not require energy-intensive melting in a blast furnace. The used battery systems are delivered, deep discharged, and dismantled. Its individual parts are ground into granules in the shredder and then dried. Then hydrometallurgical processes ‒ using water and chemical agents, are carried out for separation and processing of the individual substances from the dismantled battery. "Recycled battery raw materials are just as efficient as new ones. In future, (Volkswagen) intends to support (their) battery cell production with the material recovered (in-house)," said Mark Möller, Head of the Business Unit Technical Development & E-Mobility.

The battery recycling plant is another step by Volkswagen towards sustainable end-to-end responsibility for the entire value chain of the electric vehicle battery. As per the company, approximately 1.3 tonnes of CO2 is saved per 62 kWh battery manufactured using cathodes made from recycled material and using green electricity.

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