What business opportunities researchers see in battery recycling

What business opportunities researchers see in battery recycling

According to a study by the RWTH Aachen and the management consultancy PwC, the development of battery recycling in the EU will be expensive at around nine billion euros, but it could soon be worth it. After a long dry spell, the recycling of e-car batteries in Europe will “be a profitable and sustainable business even before 2035,” said PwC industry expert Jörn Neuhausen.

According to this, recycled material could account for up to 30 percent of the lithium, nickel and cobalt required in battery cell production in 2035. Achim Kampker, Professor at RWTH Aachen University, added that the general increase in electrification and the increasing production of batteries for e-cars will drive the recycling market in Europe.

At first overcapacity

In the coming years, above all, waste from the growing “gigafactories” will be recycled, and there will still be overcapacities in the recycling plants. According to the study, however, the market will turn around from 2030, because then the first large number of electric cars will be phased out. From then on, the recycling market will be at full capacity.

However, this requires investments of more than 2.2 billion euros for the annual processing of around 570,000 tons of battery material. “In order to be able to process all recyclable materials from 2035 onwards, market participants will have to spend a further seven billion euros on their recycling capacities,” says Kampker.

Because of the high investment costs, the current structure of the value chain will develop in the direction of large recycling centers, emphasized the experts. The combination of high material volume and low recycling costs creates an ideal market environment for the battery industry.

New rules in Europe

“Battery recycling will be a profitable and sustainable business in Europe before 2035,” summarized Neuhausen. South Korea and China are pioneers in battery recycling with their 2013 targets to recycle around 90 percent of batteries.

The European Parliament passed new rules for the battery industry in June. With its revised battery regulation, the EU is thus setting minimum proportions of recovered raw materials such as cobalt, lead and lithium in new batteries. In addition, fixed collection quotas are also set for used batteries from “light means of transport” such as electric bicycles or scooters.

According to the EU Commission, Europe currently imports around 800,000 tons of car batteries, 190,000 tons of industrial batteries and 160,000 tons of consumer batteries every year. Much of it is not recycled but disposed of – wasting resources and releasing hazardous substances.


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