New article on the Circular World Index. Andres Gujan speaks about the problem of scrap batteries and where we see opportunities.

Powered by renewable electricity, electric cars are slowly beginning to replace their non-electric counterparts. But can be done about the avalanche of old batteries that this will inevitably cause? Companies in the Circular World Index can provide answers.

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

The batteries found in electric cars are really rather heavy: the battery fitted in the Renault Zoé weighs 290kg and Tesla’s Model 3 even uses one that weighs 478kg. This means that electrification is set to produce millions of tons of scrap batteries. To prevent reserves of cobalt, lithium, and rare earths from falling victim to electromobility, intensive work on sustainable solutions is currently being done. The solutions are based on the principles of recycling management: reduce, reuse, recycle. The reduce principle, i.e. reducing the need for resources, is the most environmentally friendly.

For batteries, this means constantly improving the energy densities — there are even re-chargeable batteries being developed that do not require cobalt. The reuse principle is applied when scrap batteries from electric cars are used to store solar energy. There is a huge need for this, and the reduced capacity is not an issue for stationary storage. In the end, however, all great batteries must come to an end — and this is where recycling comes into play.

The current standard process involves melting down the batteries, grinding them, and then separating the different types of metal. Cobalt, nickel, and copper can be recovered in this process, but the lithium, graphite, aluminum, and the electrolyte are lost. As long as this is the case, electric vehicles are not really sustainable. There is a great incentive to develop a process for recovering lithium: the estimated market value of lithium for electric vehicles had already reached 3 billion US dollars in 2019. By 2025, the quantity is likely to quadruple (McKinsey). The first systems for this purpose shred the batteries or crush them with electro-hydraulic shock waves in a water bath.

Battery recycling in the Circular World Index

The Circular Word Index comprises three companies that participate in the growing battery recycling market: AF Pöyry, Umicore and Dongjiang Environmental. Based in Belgium, Umicore operates globally and has a strong focus on batteries for electric mobility. The Group generates 60% of its revenues by recovering metals from batteries and occupies a leading market position in this area; it also invests around 200 million US dollars per year in the further development of its processes.

Dongjiang Environmental Services is a profitable, rapidly expanding waste management and recycling company in China. Dongjiang operates the country’s largest recycling plant for electronic scrap and its engineering division also develops recycling processes for industrial waste. As a consulting and engineering company, AF Pöyry is strongly rooted in the topic of “future cities”, in which the electrification of traffic and the use of scrap batteries is a core issue. These three companies are helping to make electric cars part of a true recycling economy. They are leaders in this area of technology, profitable, and could benefit from the electrification of transport.

Further information on the index and the corresponding actively managed certificates are available on investerest.com

 

 

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