The future of the electric car depends directly on that of the batteries designed to power it. In order for a Battery Electric Vehicle (or BEV) to be truly zero emissions, it is not enough to produce the accumulator while minimizing the impact on the environment, recharge it with energy from renewable sources and, at the end of the car’s life cycle. , reuse it as an energy reserve in a home: it must also be recycled to recover the precious (and polluting) materials that compose it.
The plant just opened in Salzgitter from Volkswagen Group Components was created precisely for this last, delicate task: to make it possible for the industrialized recovery from batteries of precious raw materials such as lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt together with aluminum, copper and plastics, to reach, in the long term, a recycling rate above 90%. In short, the German giant leaves early, when the volumes of completely exhausted car accumulators are still reduced, to recycle in this pilot phase up to 3,600 battery systems per year, equal to approximately 1,500 tons. It does so in that same center of excellence for battery development, located in Lower Saxony, where it has already decided to invest 100 million euros to increase its expertise in the development and production of battery cells, and where it is preparing to put feet a 16 giga watt hour battery cell factory in joint venture with the Swedish manufacturer Northvolt: nine hundred million investments to start producing accumulators between 2023 and 2024, creating over a thousand jobs.
Back to the pilot battery recycling line, this is particularly innovative because it does not require blast furnace melting, a highly energy intensive process. The exhausted battery systems arrive at processing already completely and dismantled: every single component is reduced to granules in the shredder and then dried. Aluminum, copper and plastics are recovered, while the so-called black powder (black powder), which contains important raw materials for batteries such as lithium, nickel, manganese, cobalt and graphite. The rest of the processing, which involves the separation and processing of the individual substances through hydrometallurgical processes, is then carried out by specialized partners.
Research says raw materials are recycled for batteries they are as efficient as the new ones – explains Mark Mller, head of the technical development and E-Mobility division -. In the future we want to support our battery cell production with the material we recover. As the demand for accumulators and related raw materials will increase dramatically we can make good use of every gram of recycled material.
This is confirmed by the fact that, according to Volkswagen’s calculations, the savings for a 62 kWh battery produced using cathodes obtained from recycled materials and using electricity from renewable sources, equal to approximately 1.3 tons of CO2. Meanwhile, the sales data of the full electric ID.3 bring positive signs for the German giant, confirming the success of an electric car on the market only since last September (56,500 units sold, especially in Central and Northern Europe), and encouraging new investments in this direction. Especially considering that, together with the numerous other electrified cars of the group (among which the excellent e-tron made in Audi stands out), the new full electric has contributed to a reduction of the average CO2 emitted by the Volkswagen fleet in Europe equal to 20% in 2020 , in line with the objectives set by the Group.
February 9, 2021 (change February 9, 2021 | 17:03)
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