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Swedish battery company Northvolt said Friday that it produced its first battery cell with what it described as “100% recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt.”
In a statement, the Stockholm-based company – which has attracted investment from Goldman Sachs Other Volkswagen, among others – claimed that the lithium-ion battery cell was manufactured by its recycling program, Revolt.
The cell’s nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode was produced using metals “recovered through recycling of battery waste.” Tests showed performance was on par with cells made from metals that had just been mined, Northvolt said.
On Friday, the company said its recycling facility design would be expanded so it could recycle 125,000 tons of batteries annually.
Construction of the plant, called Revolt Ett, is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022, with activities starting in 2023.
It will use materials from end-of-life electric vehicle batteries and scrap from Northvolt Ett, the company’s gigafactory, where the first battery is expected to be produced by the end of 2021. Both facilities will be located in Skellefteå, northern Sweden.
According to the company, the Revolt plant will be able to recycle materials including lithium, cobalt, manganese and nickel, providing the gigafactory in the process.
In addition, plastic, copper and aluminum will be recovered and “recirculated into production flows through local third parties”.
In a telephone interview with CNBC, Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s environmental manager, said: “In theory, you can, by definition, recycle any metal you have in a battery and make a new one.”
“As a fundamental strategy, this means that when the electric vehicle market is mature, then where [an] the same amount of cars would enter the street as the amount of cars that need to be scrapped or sent for recycling: in fact you can, in theory, have a very, very high recycling rate … of batteries. “
“And that means you wouldn’t be subject to a very liquid commodity market and would also protect yourself from very high footprints,” said Nehrenheim, who is also head of Revolt.
Northvolt’s plans come at a time when the shift to electric vehicles is starting to gain momentum.
This week, signatories to a statement at the COP26 climate change summit said they “will work to ensure that all sales of new cars and vans are carbon neutral by 2040 and by 2035 in major markets.”
While the United States, China and automakers including Volkswagen and Toyota were absent from the statement, the signatories included the governments of the United Kingdom, Mexico and Canada and major automotive companies such as ford, General Motors Other Volvo car.
As global supply chains face severe pressures from a multitude of factors, the notion of material recycling and the development of a circular economy is starting to become an attractive proposition for some companies, including those in the electric vehicle industry.
In March of this year, Lucien Mathieu from the Brussels-based Transport & Environment campaign group sought to highlight the potential of recycling in the electric vehicle sector.
In a statement on the T&E website, he said: “Unlike today’s fossil fuel-powered cars, electric car batteries are part of a circular economy cycle in which battery materials can be reused and recovered to produce more batteries “.
Recycling of battery materials, Mathieu said, was key when it came to reducing “the pressure on primary demand for virgin materials” and limiting “the impact that raw material extraction can have on the environment and community”.
Northvolt’s Nehrenheim was asked how important he felt that ideas about recycling and a circular economy would move forward.
“I think this will be the key to any new industry,” he said. “There will be no disruptive technology that can live without this and I think in the long run … the recycled materials in any industry will outperform any other.”
“In the long run, it will be much more profitable once the processes are established for using only one product to produce a new product,” he continued.
“You’re reducing dependence … on the commodity market, you have a much more sustainable source … it’s much more local.”