Audi and Umicore have completed the test phase of their research cooperation. According to this, more than 90 per cent of the cobalt and nickel from e-tron batteries can be recycled. Starting in January, the recycled materials will be used in new battery cells.
The material cycle will be closed with the renewed use of cobalt and nickel. The Umicore experts receive used Audi e-tron cell modules from Audi and extract the cobalt and nickel from them – initially. The battery modules still come from the development vehicles. Umicore then processes the recycled material into precursor and cathode material from which new battery cells can be produced.
“A closed-loop for battery raw materials is a big leap technologically,” said Bernd Martens, board member responsible for procurement at Audi, according to the announcement. “In this way, we come significantly closer to our goal of a sustainable supply chain,” he explained.
However, the cells with recycled material are not used directly in new cars. “The first thing we want to do with the project is to master the process,” explains an Audi spokeswoman when asked. “In the next step, series production is conceivable.”
The two companies announced the strategic cooperation and the closed-loop project in October 2018. At the time, there was still talk of a targeted recycling rate of 95 per cent, but the current press release still mentions “more than 90 per cent. However, the project was defined based on the analysis of the cells from the A3 e-tron PHEV, but other cells were then used with the cells from the e-tron quattro development vehicles.
Umicore CEO Marc Grynberg sees the project as a “pioneer in the development of a sustainable supply chain for electrified transport”. For Umicore, however, it is just one of many projects. Together with BMW and Northvolt, Umicore is working on the joint development of a complete value chain for e-car battery cells in Europe. Umicore also signed cathode material supply contracts with LG Chem and Samsung SDI this autumn.