Chinese electric vehicle battery makers are increasingly focusing on recycling as part of a sustainable life cycle strategy.
"Greener manufacturing, increased metals extraction, better materials and recycling are all major parts of sustainability for electric vehicle batteries," Dr. Xiao LIN, associate professor of the Institute of Process Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told delegates at a battery metals conference in Perth.
"Waste management, metals recycling and materials engineering are important factors in sustainable engineering," he said, adding that a pilot plant has been established in China to recycle battery grade lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese from spent batteries and from scrap material.
Lin stressed the need for risk to be reduced from waste and used batteries by "getting metal back". He also confirmed that the spent battery composition is changing to high nickel from original high cobalt of mineral resource and traditional Lithium ion battery composition, new metal separation processes and higher selective extraction systems are needed to ensure the recycling of the new waste, in line with the resource endowment change of the recovered materials. He estimated that there are 20 nickel-cobalt-manganese battery projects underway in China.
While there is a large north-south split in the world with the raw materials located in the southern hemisphere and battery manufacturing in the northern hemisphere (mainly east Asia), he said upstream and downstream changes are taking place.
CATL has reached an estimated market value of AU$41bn after it was founded in December 2011. Significant investment has been announced in battery manufacturing facilities, mainly by large Asian manufacturers such as CATL, BYD and LG Chem.
A major change, said Lin, is that Germany is likely to attract more battery manufacturing investment in 2019 than China, while Indonesia is shaping up as a significant raw material producer through laterite nickel and high-pressure acid leach projects being pursued by China's Tsingshan, the world's largest stainless steel producer. (Argus)
International Cooperation Office, Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, P. R. China.