When your friends in the pub get really excited about “those annoying lithium batteries”, the objections of electric car enthusiasts about recycling are often quickly brushed aside. The fact is that theoretically more than 90% of the batteries can already be recycled today. But: it has to be economical and sustainable. At least for cobalt and nickel, a recycling solution now seems to be emerging. The share of these two substances is around 10% in modern batteries. The other components, with the exception of lithium, are already easier to be recycled.

Cobalt and nickel

The German car brand Audi and the Belgian recycling group Umicore have recently completed the first test phase of their strategic research collaboration. The result: more than 90 per cent of the cobalt and nickel contained in the batteries of the Audi e-Tron can be recovered. The car manufacturer and the specialist in recycling and materials technology are therefore now embarking on the next phase. Starting in January, the partners will jointly test a truly closed cycle for cobalt and nickel. The recovered raw materials will be reused in new battery cells.

For the closed pilot project, Umicore will receive the used cell modules from the Audi e-Tron, initially from development vehicles. The materials technology expert retrieves cobalt and nickel from these and processes them into precursor and cathode materials. These materials can be used to produce new battery cells containing recycled cobalt and nickel. Audi says it is committed to working in a resource-efficient way. Further recycling opportunities will be developed in the future.

Umicore is a materials technology and recycling group headquartered in Brussels. The company employs some 10,000 people worldwide.

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