Northvolt uses recycled nickel, manganese, and cobalt to produce batteries

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Christian Bossie | Bloomberg Creative Photos | Getty Images

The Swedish battery company Northvolt said on Friday that it has produced its first battery, which contains “100% recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt.”

In a statement, the Stockholm-based company-which has attracted investment from companies such as Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen-said that lithium-ion batteries were manufactured by its recycling program Revolt.

The battery’s nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode is produced using metals “recovered through recycling battery waste.” Northvolt said that tests have shown that its performance is comparable to batteries made from newly mined metals.

On Friday, the company said it would expand the design of its recycling facility so that it can recycle 125,000 tons of batteries per year.

The plant, called Revolt Ett, is scheduled to start construction in the first quarter of 2022 and start operations in 2023.

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It will use materials from end-of-life electric vehicle batteries and waste from the company’s super factory Northvolt Ett, and is expected to produce the first battery by the end of 2021. Both plants will be located in Skellefteå in northern Sweden.

According to the company, the Revolt plant will be able to recycle materials including lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel to supply the super plant in the process.

In addition, plastic, copper and aluminum will also be recycled and “recycled into the manufacturing process through a local third party.”

In a telephone interview with CNBC, Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s chief environmental officer, said: “Theoretically, by definition, you can recycle any metal in the battery and use it to make new batteries.”

“As a basic strategy, this means that when the electric vehicle market matures-therefore, in [an] The number of cars entering the street is the same as the number of cars that need to be scrapped or sent for recycling-in fact, in theory, you can have a very, very high battery recycling rate. “

“This means that you will not be affected by the highly liquid raw material market, and you can protect yourself from a very high footprint,” said Nehrenheim, who is also the head of Revolt.

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Northvolt’s plan came at a time when the transition to electric vehicles began to gain momentum.

This week, the signatories of the COP26 climate change summit declaration stated that they will “work hard to achieve zero emissions in all sales of new cars and trucks worldwide by 2040, and zero emissions in major markets no later than 2035.”

Although the United States, China, and automakers such as Volkswagen and Toyota did not participate in the statement, the signatories do include the governments of the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Canada, as well as major automobile companies such as Ford, General Motors, and Volvo Cars.

Due to a variety of factors that have caused severe pressure on the global supply chain, the concept of recycling materials and developing a circular economy has begun to become an attractive proposition for some companies, including those in the electric vehicle industry.

In March of this year, Lucien Mathieu from the Brussels Movement Organization Transport and Environment tried to emphasize the recycling potential of the electric vehicle industry.

In a statement on the T&E website, he said: “Unlike today’s fossil fuel powered cars, electric car batteries are part of the circular economy cycle. Battery materials can be reused and recycled to produce more batteries.”

Mathieu believes that the recycling of battery materials is crucial in reducing the “pressure on the main demand for raw materials” and limiting “the impact that raw material extraction may have on the environment and the community”.

‘More local’

Northvolt’s Nehrenheim was asked about how important she thinks the idea of ​​recycling and the circular economy is to future development.

“I think this will be a key driver of any new industry,” she said. “Without this, any disruptive technology cannot survive. I think in the long run… any industry’s recycled materials will compete with other industries.”

“In the long run, once a process is established that only uses products to produce new products, it will achieve higher profits,” she continued.

“You are reducing your dependence on the raw material market… You have a more sustainable source… It is more localized.”

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