State of Battery Recycling: Can we meet our LIB recycling obligations by 2030?


The following report provides a thorough overview of the current and upcoming lithium-ion battery recycling targets and illustrates what it will take to meet these targets by all parties involved.  We are not only asking if we can meet our LIB recycling obligations; we are also asking if these recycling obligations are too ambitious for 2030, and what it will take to meet these obligations.

In the European Union, the draft of the new Battery Directive sets EV batteries as a new battery classification, with a set of requirements to minimize their carbon footprint.  The average LIB recycling target will be approximately 70% by 2030, with the aim to recover 70% of lithium and 95% of nickel, copper, and cobalt in end-of-life batteries.

The updated proposals in the amended Regulation (EU) No 2019/1020 also has provisions for recycled materials that must be used in new cells. These figures are 4% for lithium and nickel and 12% for cobalt by 2030.  Taking the UK as an example, with EU battery legislation demanding that 4% of lithium comes from recycled sources, more than 87,000 Tesla Model 3 battery packs would need to be recycled annually to meet this demand.  Using this same logic for the EU, over half a million Tesla Model 3 battery packs need to be recycled by 2030 to meet that same demand of 4%.  This means that the UK demand for lithium in 2030 will be 11.4K tonnes, from which 456 tonnes must come from recycled sources.  For the EU, the lithium demand will be nearly 60K tonnes, with approximately 2.8K tonnes needing to be from recycled sources.

Obtaining that much recycled material from end-of-life vehicles will be difficult, as a significant percentage will also be going to second-life uses.  So, another source to obtain recycled materials for re-use in new batteries (and to meet obligations) can be the scrap from gigafactories. In fact, manufacturing scrap could become the main source of recycling material as well as the ideal starting point.

In North America, the USA and Canada are not as advanced as the EU in setting up a proper body of regulatory framework.  The adoption of more stringent measures for LIB recycling must come from the federal level rather than leaving it to the states or provincial governments.  This will be vital, because if the laws are not consistent throughout the country, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will likely dump waste where regulations are most relaxed.



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