CATL Plans $5 Billion Battery Recycling Factory

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CATL, China’s largest battery manufacturer, has announced it intends to invest $5 billion in a battery recycling factory to be located in Yichang, a city in Hubei Province which is in central China. The new factory will recycle used battery materials and produce materials including lithium iron phosphate, lithium cobaltate, and cathode materials such as graphite and phosphoric acid.

Chinese law imposes a duty on battery manufacturers to be responsible for recycling their products when they reach the end of their useful life. According to China EV Post, the project aims to meet its demand for capacity expansion of power batteries, secure the supply of battery materials, and advance the company’s goal of full life-cycle management of retired power batteries. That number is expected to rise to almost 800,000 tons by 2025, according to Central China Television.

CATL first began its involvement with battery recycling in 2013 when it entered into a strategic recycling agreement with SAIC. It also owns a subsidiary called Hunan Brump that is currently the largest recycler of used batteries in China with a total of more than 6,000 tons of used batteries recycled and processed annually.

Battery Recycling Is A Thing

Recycling batteries is starting to take off. Not only does it make sense not to dump them in landfills, it makes financial sense to reuse the materials inside them to make new batteries. JB Straubel, the former Tesla chief technology officer now involved in battery recycling with his new company, Redwood Materials, thinks up to 95% of the elements inside a lithium-ion battery cell can be recovered and used to make new batteries. The metals and plastics that form the outer shell of those cells can be recycled as well.

Volkswagen has also created a battery recycling technology center at its battery factory in Salzgitter, Germany.“Our goal is to create our own circular process in which more than 90 percent of each of our batteries is recycled,” says Thomas Tiedje, head of technical planning at Volkswagen Component, in a blog post. “We don’t want to hand the process over at any point but prefer to train our employees and thus make them fit for the future.”

BASF is building a battery recycling facility in Brandenburg, which just so happens to be the same same German state where the new Tesla Gigafactory is located. Matthias Dohrn, the head of precious and base metal services at BASF, says, “With this investment in battery recycling, plus leading process technology for manufacturing of cathode active materials, we aim to ‘close the loop’ while reducing the CO2 footprint of our cathode active materials by up to 60 percent in total compared to industry standards. This will enable us to meet the needs of our automotive OEM customers and helps ensure a more sustainable future for us all.”

A few weeks ago, I came across a comment on the reddit EV forum from someone who insisted EV owners just drive their cars into lakes and rivers when the batteries die. Yes, it’s remarkable that such stupid people exist, but they do and they are helping spread misinformation about the EV revolution far and wide. Our mission is to combat such ignorance with facts.

Battery recycling will allow manufacturers to recycle almost all the raw materials needed to make lithium-ion batteries, which saves money and reduces the need to extract and refine new materials. It’s a win/win/win situation that is good for EV owners, good for manufacturers, and good for the environment. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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