Will trendy trucks with the Mercedes-Benz emblem soon be able to take advantage of a battery recycling cycle? This is what the progress of the LiBinfinity project, which also includes the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, suggests.
Its detractors have said it a lot: the electric car is not clean and requires more or less mileage to become more virtuous than a gasoline or diesel model. That is why any initiative to reduce the carbon footprint and emissions of pollutants from raw material extraction to the end of life of connected vehicles must be carefully studied.
Especially when it comes to batteries, the manufacture of which weighs heavily on EV dampers. That’s why the second life of lithium-ion packs and cell recycling are the subject of many more or less advanced projects.
Among them, the LiBinfinity program that benefits from an envelope of 17 million euros from the Federal Ministry of Economy and Climate Action.
In particular, to recover strategic resources such as cobalt, nickel, manganese and lithium contained in most current batteries for electric vehicles, the LiBinfinity program chose an energy-intensive stepless mechano-hydrometallurgical recycling process. Elements that cannot be separated by this grinding will be immersed at relatively low temperatures in a mixture of water and chemicals.
The promoters of this project expect to achieve higher recycling rates, that is, above 90%. What should be emphasized is the energy efficient aspect of the chosen method, which will further reduce the carbon footprint and manufacturing cost of electric vehicles.
While sustainable mobility is heavily dependent on the battery-powered EV solution, wasting resources would be a bad idea. Recycling will gradually become an increasingly important source of essential materials. To the point of imagining, like the leaders of the LiBinfinity project, closed loops of supply.
From laboratory to industry
Of the €17 million in the federal envelope, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology will receive €1.2 million to support the transfer from laboratory to industry of the LiBinfinity recycling method. And that, according a relevant scale “, is indicated in the press release of September 1, 2022. A precision that, however, leaves us in the vagueness as to the volumes that the partners intend to reuse.
” When trucks are electrified, the need for materials to make their batteries will be so great that recycling will no longer be enough for other applications. “, assured Helmut Ehrenberg, director of the Institute of Applied Materials, Division of Energy Storage Systems, at the German university.
Hence the idea of a closed circuit to reserve its use, for example, for these heavy vehicles. The presence of Daimler Truck in the consortium that supports the LiBinfinity program does not escape this reasoning.
a specific role
More specifically, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology will have to verify that the materials obtained by recycling are suitable for the manufacture of new batteries. Those used in particular to make the cathodes must meet high requirements.
” This validation is vital to ensure battery efficiency, reliability, lifetime and overall cost. “, highlighted Joachim Binder, Head of the Ceramic Powder Synthesis and Technology Group for the Energy Storage Systems Division of the Institute of Applied Materials.
Overall, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology will link the following steps: control of recycled inputs, synthesis of new cathode materials, production of electrodes, manufacture of industrial-grade large-format lithium-ion battery cells, testing and evaluation of these elements. .
At the end of this process, the university scientists embarked on this program will define the requirements on the quality of recycled materials accepted for reuse in new batteries.
A factory under construction
Ideally, this recycling method should be operated in the pilot plant being built at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Kuppenheim. Its annual end-of-life battery processing capacity would be 2,500 tons per year.
According to the LiBinfinity program carriers, the induced loop “ will not only improve the ecological, economic and social sustainability of electric mobility, but also reduce Europe’s dependence on imported raw materials “.