Swedish battery developer Northvolt has announced a landmark achievement with the news that it has produced its first battery cell with 100% recycled nickel, manganese, and cobalt.
Northvolt, based in Stockholm, and backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen, has sought to combat mineral supply and waste issues through a recycling program called Revolt.
It has now successfully produced its first lithium-ion battery made with a nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode produced entirely from metals recovered through the recycling of battery waste.
All recycling and production processes were completed on a single site at Northvolt Labs in Västerås, Sweden, and the development of the recycling process stands as a potential breakthrough for the battery industry which is looking to transition to a more sustainable manufacturing process.
“What we have shown here is a clear pathway to closing the loop on batteries and that there exists a sustainable, environmentally-preferable alternative to conventional mining in order to source raw materials for battery production,” said Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s chief environmental officer and head of Revolt.
“The recycling process can recover up to 95% of the metals in a battery to a level of purity on par with fresh virgin material. What we need now is to scale-up recycling capacities in anticipation of future volumes of batteries requiring recycling.”
The recycled nickel, manganese, and cobalt metals used in the battery cell were recovered from battery waste using a low-energy hydrometallurgical treatment which involves the use of an aqueous solution to isolate the metals and separate them from impurities.
Northvolt will now turn its attention to scaling-up its recycling capacities, and will modify plans for its Revolt Ett giga-scale recycling plant which is currently under development adjacent to the Northvolt Ett gigafactory in Skellefteå, Sweden.
Revolt Ett will now be expanded beyond its initial design to enable recycling of 125,000 tonnes of batteries per year.
Construction is set to begin in the first quarter of 2022 and Northvolt expects operations to begin in 2023, with incoming material to be recycled coming from two sources – end-of-life batteries from EVs and production scrap from Northvolt Ett.
“As the electric vehicle revolution gains speed, we should be mindful that some 250,000 tons of batteries will reach their end-of-life in Europe by 2030,” said Emma Nehrenheim.
“In this, some see challenges and obstacles. At Northvolt, we see opportunity.”
Revolt Ett will be Europe’s largest battery recycling plant and the only large-scale facility in Europe capable of recycling lithium in addition to nickel, manganese, cobalt, and other materials – including copper, aluminium, and plastics.