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New technology makes lithium battery recycling even less cost-effective
On July 4th, according to Forbes magazine, data released by the Electric Power Research Institute showed that as manufacturers reduce the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries as much as possible, they are removing those in the battery. Valuable elements worth recycling. But this also makes recycling more difficult and less cost-effective.
The American Electric Power Research Institute released a report at the end of last year, assessing the 'end-of-life' cost of batteries. Last week, Ben Kaun, the agency’s energy storage project manager, told the Illinois Commission of Commerce that a lack of recycling would increase the “end of life” cost of lithium-ion batteries. Cowan said: 'At present, in lead-acid, I think 98% of the materials can be recycled and converted into new lead-acid batteries. This is almost a completely closed cycle system, and lithium ion is not the case. High-value materials The content levels are different. Many of the current lithium-ion battery innovations are actually to remove the remaining high-value materials (such as cobalt) from the system.'
The Royal Society of Chemistry (Royal Chemistry Society) data show that the cost of cobalt (battery cathode) jumped from 32,500 US dollars in early 2017 to 81,000 US dollars in March this year. Cobalt is the cathode material of the battery, and battery manufacturers have reduced the content of cobalt by redesigning the battery. In May of this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company has almost eliminated cobalt from batteries used in cars and stationary storage batteries. This makes the battery cheaper, but it may also be too cheap to be recycled.
Cowan said that if there are no valuable recycled materials, recyclers have no incentive to recycle used batteries. He said: 'Lithium-ion batteries have not yet developed the same recycling infrastructure as lead-acid batteries. There is an important issue that needs to be studied, and how recycling infrastructure will emerge. Part of the problem is to expand the scale of recycling, and the other part is to understand. Motivation for infrastructure development and how you can upgrade or at least maintain high-quality battery materials that can be remanufactured like lead-acid.'
In the absence of a recycling market Under the circumstances, battery owners even need to pay for disposal costs instead of obtaining recycling incentives. But scholars are studying this issue, including Professor Yan Wang of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and founder of Battery resources cers, one of the nine recycling companies listed on the EPRI website. He said: 'Currently, most lithium-ion batteries are sent to landfills. If they are reused, only the metal value of the batteries can be recovered.'
Wang Yan said that Battery Resourcers has developed processes for recycling cathode materials, including cobalt, aluminum, copper, plastic, graphite, methanol and other chemicals used in the recycling process. We need to produce these batteries at a low enough cost, which will make it more meaningful for battery manufacturers to buy recycled materials instead of mining new materials.