Recycler companies preparing for electric car revolution

The recycling company welcomed the electric car revolution to build a process for extracting metals from old batteries into a cheaper and efficient way to produce cobalt and lithium for less. Used battery recycling technology will save costs and will take advantage in the future to sell recycled batteries.

Tinuku Recycler companies preparing for electric car revolution

The value of lithium carbonate and natural or synthetic graphite has doubled in the past three or four years and has become the most valuable material other than cobalt in the automotive industry. Sales of electric vehicles are expected to pass 14 million annually by 2025 and will trigger a surge in battery consumption.

"It's a great value for the recycling industry in the future." said Albrecht Melber of Accurec GmbH in Germany, told Reuters.

The automotive batteries industry requires an annual addition of 30,000 tons of cobalt and 81,000 tons of lithium to meet demand in 2021 of which 11,600 tons of cobalt and 24,900 tons of lithium are recycled in 2026. Each is 9.7 percent and 17.9 percent of the total supply market.

The 1,000-pound cobalt battery contains US$6,000 cathode material and about US$1,700 for a nickel-cobalt aluminum battery. Most electric cars are powered by NMC lithium batteries that use cathodes consisting of nickel, manganese, cobalt and graphite anodes.

Most of the cobalt is supplied from the Democratic Republic of Congo and prices have more than doubled, while the lithium supply is mainly from Chile and soon from Argentina and Australia. But high demand for lithium has pushed prices up more than 30 percent at US$12,000 a tonne today.

Most old battery recyclers use the pyrometallurgy method and generally only produce cobalt and nickel, while lithium is more difficult and expensive to extract. The cost of recycling varies greatly, but in order to save money it needs to be converted into lithium carbonate at a cost of US$7,000 per ton.

Tinuku.com Recycler companies preparing for electric car revolution

Some recycling companies say they have developed a way to get lithium. Umicore N.V headquartered in Brussels using a combination of pyrometallurgy and a chemical process called hydrometallurgy to take lithium, as well as extracting cobalt, nickel and copper.

"Batteries are complex material matrices, but our process allows to separate and concentrate lithium in one step process and produce alloys with cobalt, nickel and copper," said Umicore.

Umicore operates a 7000 ton capacity plant to process approximately 35,000 electric vehicle batteries per year. Analysts say the Belgian company is an established recycler and by far the most advanced lithium ion battery processor in Europe.

Anaheim-based Retriev Technologies has recycled lithium ion batteries on the Trail, British Columbia, since 2002 to restore cobalt, nickel and copper. The factory processes 1,200 tons of batteries per year and has expanded facilities in Ohio to process lithium ion batteries by 2019.

Accurec has a capacity of 1,000 tons at the Krefeld facility. Neometals Ltd headquartered in Western Australia is building a plant to extract cobalt, lithium and nickel. American Manganese Inc. in Canada also said it has extracted 100 percent lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and aluminum from batteries.

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