New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

When battery recycling becomes a key factor in the competition for energy security in the era of low-carbon energy, this is a thorny issue that cannot be ignored, but it is also an investment with long-term benefits.

Looking at the Chinese auto market, sales will exceed 30 million units for the first time in 2023, a year-on-year increase of 12%, of which new energy vehicle sales will be 9.495 million units, a year-on-year increase of 37.9%, which is the most important sales driver.

Driven by new energy, China's automobile export has also reached a new high, with 4.91 million units exported in 2023, a year-on-year increase of 57.9%, becoming the world's largest automobile exporter. But under the prosperity, there is also a hidden crisis, such as the recycling of new energy power batteries.

Under the eco-friendly coat

One of the legitimacy of the development of new energy vehicles is "environmental protection", but if the power battery is not properly recycled, it will be a great harm to the environment.

Lithium-ion batteries have become a unified solution for the promotion of new energy vehicles with all-roundability, but in the process of becoming a "hexagonal warrior", in order to integrate energy density, cycle times, fast charging, safety and cost and other capabilities, lithium-ion batteries also integrate heavy metals such as nickel, manganese, and cobalt at the cathode.

If damaged and exposed to air, lithium hexafluorophosphate in the electrolyte of the power battery is also very easy to hydrolyze to produce harmful substances such as phosphorus pentafluoride and hydrogen fluoride. 1 fast 20 grams of mobile phone battery can pollute 1 square kilometer of land for 50 years, when replaced by a power battery of several hundred kilograms, its impact on the environment can be imagined.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

Once heavy metals such as nickel, manganese, and cobalt that have been buried deep in the ground in the form of minerals are exposed to the atmosphere and soil through the medium of scrapped power batteries, human beings at the back end of the food chain are naturally their ultimate storage carriers under the effect of transmission and aggregation.

In order for new energy vehicles to continue to develop, the recycling of power batteries must be put on the agenda, and the three major economies in China, Europe and the United States are also introducing relevant laws and regulations.

As for environmental protection, Europe, which is seriously "fighting left and right", is naturally at the forefront, and the latest EU Batteries Regulation (hereinafter referred to as the "New EU Battery Law") will officially come into effect on August 17, 2023.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

The legislative process of the new EU Battery Law is three years long, covering 3 chapters, 96 agreements and 15 annexes, and 143 regulations, but its core content can be summarized as: power batteries, who produces and imports, and who is responsible for recycling.

In order to implement the "who brings, who recycles" guidelines, the new EU Battery Law divides all batteries sold in the EU into five categories: portable batteries, industrial batteries, electric vehicle power batteries, SLI batteries (small batteries used in automobiles, etc.) and LMT batteries (batteries for electric bicycles), and sets out clear recycling requirements at different stages.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

Among them, the recycling of power batteries is naturally the focus, and the recycling rate will reach 50% in 2027 and 80% in 2031.

An important implementation tool is a "clearly identifiable, non-erasable carbon footprint declaration and label", which is mandatory for all batteries with a capacity of more than 2 kWh, including the entire supply process from battery manufacturing to import.

Through the management method of "carbon footprint labeling", the EU has responded to the main theme of environmental protection on the face, and has picked up another policy weapon on the inside.

Shortly after the passage of the new EU Battery Law, the French government released a new list of subsidies for electric vehicles, after the three most popular electric vehicles in the French market, the Dacia Spring, the Tesla Model 3 and the MG MG4, were all excluded.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

The biggest common denominator of these three cars is that they are all manufactured in China and then exported to the French market. The French government's reason for "rejecting" these three cars is that they emit too much carbon dioxide during manufacturing and transportation.

France's environmental protection brand is undoubtedly pouring cold water on China's hot new energy industry. The new energy transformation is not only an environmental protection movement, but also a big country business, shopping malls are the battlefield, if there is no long-term strategy, there will be near-term worries.

When recycling is in progress

In the implementation plan of battery recycling, cascade utilization is the first thing that comes to mind, if the power battery itself is still in good condition after being retired from electric vehicles, then it can be circulated down to energy storage equipment for use, or repaired and decomposed for low-speed electric travel tools.

This is very in line with our wisdom of life, just like the "four-wheel drive car" when I was a child, after the battery discharge capacity decreases, it can also be installed on the remote control of the TV and air conditioner to squeeze out its residual value, but the complexity of the power battery is far beyond our imagination.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

The high capacity storage demand of energy storage facilities determines that if the power battery is used as the energy storage unit, it often requires the cooperation of multiple batteries, and the battery in the scrapped car is generally very old, although the number of power battery cycles to meet the service life of 10 or 15 years, but the battery attenuation is not completely linear.

Tesla's co-founder J.B. Straubel said that when the cycle comes to the later stage, the battery capacity and efficiency will decrease, and the attenuation of each battery will be different, and it will be extremely difficult to deploy these batteries as energy storage carriers to the power grid.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

And even after the completion of the mission of cascade utilization, the battery will eventually usher in the fate of recycling, so J.B. Straubel prefers the dismantling and recycling of raw materials to the level of dismantling and recycling over cascade utilization, which is an efficient way to "promote the world towards sustainability".

J.B. Straubel also practiced this concept, and after making the Model 3 a global hit, he chose to leave Tesla and found Redwood Materials to devote himself to the battery recycling industry.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

In January 2022, Panasonic announced that it would begin supplying copper foil to Tesla's Giga Nevada battery production plant in Nevada, in partnership with Redwood Materials, which comes from old battery recycling.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

As traditional car manufacturer Volkswagen transitions to electrification, it is also planning a battery recycling strategy at its inaugural Power Day, with Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt as a key partner.

More recently, Northvolt has built Europe's largest battery recycling plant through Hydrovolt, a joint venture with Norsk Hydro. In the words of Andreas Frydensvang, Chief Commercial Officer at Hydrovolt, "We were actually going to build an above-ground mine as an alternative to the traditional mining industry. ”

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

At present, the largest power battery company in China is Guangdong Brunp, and behind it is the global power battery giant CATL.

Therefore, Brunp's biggest advantage is naturally that it can get a large number of retired power batteries at a low cost, which is naturally conducive to obtaining healthy commercial returns. On the other hand, large-scale processing can also bring technology iteration and production line optimization to Brunp, so that the enterprise can enter a positive cycle of rapid development.

Perfect closed loop

For example, in 2018, seven ministries and commissions jointly issued the "Interim Measures for the Management of Recycling and Utilization of Power Batteries for New Energy Vehicles", emphasizing that "power battery recycling implements the extended producer responsibility system", making it clear that car companies are the main body responsible for battery recycling.

However, the dismantling of batteries with different technical specifications and routes is still a problem, the form of the battery is varied, there are VDA, CTP, CTC batteries, and the cells inside the battery are also very different.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

At the same time, the main flow of domestic old batteries is still second-hand traders and small workshops, behind the non-standard dismantling, there are potential production safety and environmental protection issues, and the risk is still superimposed with the successive retirement of power batteries.

Obviously, the recycling of power batteries is far from being on the right track. However, EV battery recycling deserves attention and action, which is not only a huge potential problem, but also a treasure to be developed.

Regarding the use of copper foil made from recycled materials to Tesla's Gigafactory, Nevada, in partnership with Redwood Materials, Panasonic said, "This will be the first time that batteries will be recycled, remanufactured and returned to the same factory in a closed-loop manner."

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

Redwood Materials' plan is to purchase a 100-acre plot of land near the Gigafactory, Nevada, and plans to build a $2 billion plant to produce 100GWh of cathode active materials and anode foil per year for 1 million electric vehicles by 2025.

Tesla says that by recycling raw materials for 1,000 kWh batteries, 921 kWh of new batteries can be made, which means that the recycling efficiency can reach 92 percent.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

So in addition to environmental protection, if Tesla achieves its metal recycling goal, it will significantly reduce the cost of battery production and make its electric vehicles more affordable. In addition to Tesla, Ford Motor Co., Ltd. has reached a supply agreement with Redwood Materials.

Volkswagen's raw material recycling efficiency is expected to be 80 percent, which is clearly not in line with Volkswagen's expectations, and Volkswagen's plan is to achieve a 95 percent recycling efficiency of raw materials by strengthening cooperation with suppliers.

New energy battery recycling: it's a gray rhinoceros and a cornucopia!

Because this is not only about the requirement of "20% of raw materials must come from recycling within the EU" in the EU's "Critical Raw Materials Act", but also about the manufacturing cost of its future electric vehicles, which determines the competitiveness of its models.

For China's automotive industry, which aims to achieve new energy transformation, battery recycling is also related to the sustainability of its own competitiveness, as well as the good expectation of promoting going overseas and getting rid of involution, which is a potential risk and precious treasure to be mined.

The author of this article is Sun Xiaoshu, a kicking car gang

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