Europe: A lead market for highly efficient battery recycling?

Article menu

Europe: A lead market for highly efficient battery recycling?-highly

Electromobility becomes commonplace – and increasingly asks questions about efficient battery recycling, both from ecological and competitive reasons. Mechanical and plant engineering can make a significant contribution here to bringing new and efficient processes to the market. A study by the Fraunhofer ISI, which was carried out on behalf of the IMPULS Foundation of the VDMA, comes to the conclusion that Europe can develop into a lead market for green and highly efficient battery recycling and for the associated technologies.

Due to the increasing spread of battery electric vehicles, an enormous market for battery cells is developing in Europe, with around 2.5 megatons of new batteries expected in the EU by 2030. This leads to questions about the ecological footprint of vehicle batteries, but also about the security and availability of raw materials and the associated competitiveness of German and European industries. In this context, local battery recycling and the return of raw materials is considered an important building block for a European circular economy. Especially for Germany as a traditional mechanical engineering location, not only the development along the direct battery value chain is of great importance.

“In the upstream stages of the value chain there is great potential for market and employment growth, especially for mechanical and plant engineering,” says Henrik Schunk, Vice President of the VDMA and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the IMPULS Foundation, which the Fraunhofer ISI with the study ” Recycling of lithium-ion batteries: Opportunities and challenges for mechanical and plant engineering” (linked as PDF). “German and European machine and plant manufacturers are already active as development partners and suppliers for the growing recycling industry. Especially with the pilot plants that are now being built in Europe, there are great opportunities to position yourself permanently. Cooperation with local system suppliers is crucial here,” emphasizes Schunk.

The study that has now been published forecasts the growth of a future European battery recycling market and quantifies the effects on mechanical and plant engineering. The forecasts are based on battery market models from Fraunhofer ISI and interviews with experts from mechanical and plant engineering, the recycling industry, vehicle manufacture and research and development.

Recycling capacities must be significantly expanded

The study results show: In Europe, the volume of used lithium-ion batteries and battery components to be recycled could amount to around 230 kilotons per year from 2030 and around 1500 kilotons per year from 2040. These figures, already adjusted for possible vehicle and battery exports, mean annual growth in the recycling industry of more than 30 percent over the next few years. The return of traction batteries from electric vehicles will play the main role in the medium term.

“In order to be able to cope with such recycling quantities, the recycling capacities, which are still in the low double-digit kiloton range in Europe today, must be significantly expanded. Plant technology is required for this in Europe, which, depending on the speed of market growth and the global share of European recycling capacities, will require investments of around 6.6 billion euros by 2040,” explains Dr. Christoph Neef, who researches the topic of batteries at Fraunhofer ISI and coordinated the study. For the year 2040, this corresponds to a European market size of around 810 million euros for new plant technology.

The good conditions in German and European mechanical and plant engineering could help to bring new and efficient processes onto the market. This is necessary not least in view of the latest regulatory proposals from the EU Commission: Future recycling processes and systems should not only guarantee the proper recycling of battery components, but also high recovery rates for important battery raw materials. Especially for lithium, this is still a challenge today.

The construction of a European recycling industry with highly efficient process and plant technology, according to the study, by 2040, recyclate could cover more than 40 percent of cobalt and over 15 percent of the lithium, nickel and copper needs of battery production in Europe. “An efficient battery recycling could crucially help to reduce the CO2 footprint of batteries overall and reduce the long term dependence on raw material imports,” emphasized Hartmut Rauen, Deputy VDMA Chief Executive.

Employment potential of a growing battery recycling market

Christoph Neef from Fraunhofer ISI also emphasizes the employment potential of the growing battery recycling market, especially in the supplier industry of mechanical and plant engineering: “For the supply of the European recycling industry in mechanical and plant engineering, we see a global potential of approx. 570 jobs by 2030, by 2040 approx. 3800 jobs are created.According to Neef, it could therefore be worthwhile for the European mechanical and plant engineering sector to expand its existing competitive position in order to benefit from the employment potential of this growing market.

Since there is already a large battery recycling industry in Asia and especially in China, there is no time to lose in Germany and Europe: On the one hand, the planned battery regulation should be clear quickly. On the other hand, appropriate facilities must be set up and investments made in recycling technologies. There is an important opportunity in the European regulatory framework in particular, because it takes into account the ecological footprint of batteries, regional conditions such as energy sources and energy mix, and logistics costs. This could help Europe become a lead market for green and high-efficiency battery recycling and related technologies.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Comment