By 2025 nearly a quarter of the cobalt in lithium ion batteries will be recycled, while new chemistries aim to reduce its use. Angeli Mehta reports
Recycling lithium ion batteries from electric vehicles, smartphones, laptops and many other gadgets, as well as developing new battery chemistries, will go some way towards addressing the demand for cobalt, and other vital metals. Spent batteries will be abundant: according to the World Economic Forum, 11m tonnes of them will be discarded by 2030.
From August this year, Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers will be responsible for recycling or repurposing car batteries. Although fine details are still being worked out, the measures also require battery manufacturers to ensure products are standardized so they can be easily disassembled, and that they work with electric vehicle manufacturers on a tracing system for all battery components. The first of China’s electric vehicles are likely to come to the end of their life this year.
Such is the demand for cobalt that recyclers and battery makers are converging on limited supplies
China’s largest EV manufacturer, BYD, has begun construction of a battery recycling plant in Shanghai. According to a spokesperson, the company has introduced ways to utilize batteries removed from decommissioned electric vehicles, recycling some for use in base stations, battery storage power stations and other facilities. Batteries that cannot be re-used are disassembled.