Economic and environmental assessment of lithium‐ion battery recycling processes for electric vehicles

Conference Dates

June 5 – 10, 2022


Lithium ion batteries (LIBs) are the best practice for e-mobility applications due to their power and energy densities. The capacity of automotive batteries decreases with usage and time and the life of lithium ion batteries is recently estimated longer, until about ten years. Even considering the following “second life” applications, in which batteries are reused for static energy storage systems (ESS), an End of Life (EoL) must be considered to recover the high value material (such as copper, cobalt, aluminum, iron, nickel and seldom lithium and manganese) still available inside. Different recycling main routes can be used to recover the valuable materials: the pyrometallurgical process, the hydrometallurgical process and the direct recycling method. At this moment it is not clear which batteries recycling route should exhibit a lower impact on climate change, because the single steps of the recycling processes are described inaccurately, probably because many technical information are confidential. From a general point of view, the pyrometallurgical route uses high temperature to reduce metal oxide components to a metallic alloy made of copper, cobalt, iron and nickel. Being the pyrometallurgical process used for other types of batteries, it is already well commercially established. The hydrometallurgical route uses aqueous solutions to leach material from cathode. The most used leaching combination is H2SO4/H2O2. The hydrometallurgical process is still under development and not yet commercial diffuse. The direct recycling route ensure the removal of cathode or anode material for repurposing in lithium ion batteries manufacturing processes. Despite being one of the possible recycling routes for the lithium ion batteries there are few information available. In fact, among the three-recycling route the direct recycling one is the least developed technology.

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