Finnish energy group Fortum claims to have found a new and efficient way to recycle lithium out of rechargeable batteries. This could help satisfy the rapidly rising demand for electric cars and batteries. Tero Holländer, who is responsible for the batteries division at Fortum, has stated this in a press release.
Fortum – which is owned for 50.8% by the Finnish state – is one of the largest energy producers in Europe. It has a turnover of more than 33 billion euros in 2019. It also owns 75% of the shares in the German company Uniper, which owns a large number of coal, gas, and hydropower plants.
Earlier this year, Fortum announced that it sees a great future for hydrogen as a renewable energy source, but battery recycling is also high on its list of priorities.
How the recycling technology actually works is not something that Holländer reveals, but he does mention that it involves a new patent. “This is an important development that will help in meeting and stimulating the enormous demand for electric cars,” says Holländer. “With this technology, we will be able to recover lithium from electric car batteries in a more sustainable way.”
In addition to recovering lithium, Fortum also works on the reuse of other rare raw materials in batteries. These include cobalt, nickel, and manganese. In 2019, Fortum reported that it was able to reuse 80% of the raw materials in a battery. This is being done in a factory in Harjavalta in Finland. This is where it also wants to set up a recycling cluster together with German Basf and the Russian Nornickel.
Holländer: “Our new technology means that we are able to position Europe, and Finland in particular, as one of the most competitive and sustainable places in the world for the recycling and production of battery materials.”
According to Fortum, the world market for recycling lithium-ion batteries was still relatively small at 1.3 billion euros in 2019. But this is expected to increase to more than 20 billion euros over the coming years thanks to the ever-increasing number of electric vehicles on the road.
The International Energy Agency IEA expects 125 million E-cars in 2030 compared to around 3 million today, Fortum reports. Britain recently announced its intention to completely ban the sale of cars that run on petrol, diesel or gas as from 2030. Given the ambitions of Europe, among others, for a CO2-neutral world, it is quite possible that other countries might also do the same.
Check out our other articles on batteries here.