BASF to Build Battery Recycling Pilot at Schwarzheide

06.07.2021 - With an eye toward the growing electric vehicle market, BASF has announced it will build a battery recycling prototype plant at the site of its cathode active materials (CAM) production facility in Schwarzheide, Germany.

The German chemical group said the pilot unit, set to start up in early 2023, will support development of operational procedures and optimization of technology to deliver “superior returns” of lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese from end-of-life lithium-ion batteries as well as off-spec material from cell producers and battery material producers.

Battery recycling, BASF noted, provides “competitive and sustainable access” to relevant metals for cathode active materials. The extracted metals will be used to produce new cathode active materials and will enable a circular economy for the battery value chain.

With the investment in recycling, and its leading process technology for manufacturing of cathode active materials, BASF aims to “close the loop” while reducing the CO2 footprint of these materials by up to 60 % compared to industry standards, said Matthias Dohrn, senior vice President, Precious and Base Metal Services. This, he said, “will enable us to meet the needs of our automotive OEM customers.”

The pilot project in eastern Germany is part of the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) approved by the European Commission in December 2019. As such, it is receiving unspecified funding from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy.

EU moving full speed toward EV sustainability

Recycling of car batteries is gaining increasing momentum as a step toward enabling electric vehicles to reduce their CO2 footprint, as well as their manufacturers’ ability to meet steeper requirements of the proposed EU Battery Regulation.

According to estimates, only about half of all batteries used in the EU are recycled at present, but Brussels is currently revising its 2006 recycling directive to put more teeth into it. For lithium-ion batteries, the Commission has proposed a quota of 25% for 2025 that would increase to 70% by 2030.

From Jul. 1 2024, the proposed legislation would allow only rechargeable industrial and electric vehicles batteries – for which a carbon footprint declaration has been established – to be placed on the market.

To significantly improve the collection and recycling of portable batteries, the current collection rate should rise from around 50% currently to 65% in 2025 and 70% in 2030. The plans call for all collected batteries to be recycled, with high levels of recovery achieved, in particular for valuable materials such as cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead.

The Commission said its revised directive is also designed to facilitate the repurposing of batteries from electric vehicles so that they can have a second life, for example as stationary energy storage systems or integrated into electricity grids as energy resources.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist