Car firms and recyclers team up for EV battery supply chain project

EMR Metals Recycling joins forces with Bentley Motors, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, and a host of partners to develop UK EV battery recycling supply chain

A major collaborative project to create a commercial-scale supply chain for repurposing electric vehicle (EV) batteries is set to kick off early next year in the UK, thanks to a partnership that includes leading car brands Bentley Motors, BMW, and Jaguar Land Rover as well as several recycling specialists.

Dubbed RECOVAS, the three-year project has won grant support from the government’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and is now aiming to provide a standardised and reliable route for recycling and repurposing lithium-ion electric car batteries at a scale that can cope with the expected influx of EVs on UK roads in the coming years.

There are currently over 164,000 pure EVs on UK roads, rising to more than 373,000 models when plug-in hybrids are included. The fleet of plug-in vehicles is continuing to expand rapidly with sales figures of EVs and plug-in hybrids far outstripping demand for petrol and diesel cars.

Meanwhile, automakers are investing billions of dollars in developing new EVs and regulators around the world are introducing new measures to accelerate the switch to EVs, including pledges to ban the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars such as the UK government’s imminent plan to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

As such, developing a safe, reliable means of recycling or repurposing EV batteries once they reach the end of their lifespan is crucial to avoid a growing mountain of battery waste piling up in the coming decades, which could be damaging to the environment and result in wasted resources.

The partners working on the RECOVAS project, which is being led by scrap metal firm EMR Metals Recycling, said they expect to have a circular supply chain for former EV batteries to be up and running commercially within three years.

The supply chain aims to help all partners decide on the best route for end-of-life EV batteries when they arrive at approved treatment facilities, including remanufacturing old batteries for potential use in new EVs, reusing batteries for use in stationary energy storage systems, and safely recycling battery components.

“Our aim is to create a circular supply chain for batteries and, in the process, reduce the cost for end-of-life disposal for the vehicle manufacturer or last owner of the car to zero,” said Roger Morton, managing director for technology and innovation at EMR. “By working in partnership with the RECOVAS consortium, electric vehicle manufacturers will develop simple design changes that greatly improve the potential to remanufacture, reuse or recycle their batteries at end of life. This will help to transform the economics of the electric vehicle market.”

As part of the project, leading automotive manufacturers have agreed to share more information about the design and construction of their batteries, allowing the consortium to more effectively and efficiently repurpose or recycle them.

Other partners for the project, which kicks off in January 2021, include the University of Warwick, the Health and Safety Executive, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, and drivetrain specialist Autocraft Solutions Group, and Connected Energy, which specialises in repurposing EV batteries.

In addition, battery recycler uRecycle is aiming to develop the UK’s first commercial scale recycling facility for automotive battery packs as part of the project.

The partners estimate that developing infrastructure for an EV battery recycling and remanufacturing supply chain would provide an economic boost for the UK, potentially creating 550 new green jobs.

Ian Constance, chief executive at the APC, said recycling of EV batteries was a crucial part of the supply chain “so it’s vital that we get it right”. “The investment in innovative projects like RECOVAS, by EMR Metal Recycling, awarded as part of our APC 16 programme, demonstrates the importance of creativity and engineering excellence in the UK’s bid for a sustainable and commercial net zero future,” he said.

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