In South Korea, Kia Motors and SK Innovation have joined forces to build a circular economy for electric vehicle batteries. This involves the follow-up use of end-of-life electric car batteries as stationary energy storage units as well as the recycling of materials such as lithium, nickel and cobalt.
The agreement now concluded is based on a memorandum of understanding signed by Kia and SKI last year. Since then, empirical tests have been carried out on how the old batteries can be collected and processed.
In the process, Kia will check the batteries for their residual power and use whole packs or, if necessary, modules that are still suitable for second-life application as stationary energy storage. SK Innovation will then take over and refurbish the discarded packs and modules with low residual power.
SKI will use technologies developed in-house to recover materials such as lithium hydroxide, nickel and cobalt. The aim is to be able to extract the materials in such a high quality that they are suitable again as cathode material for new batteries. The cathode material is an important factor for the quality of the battery in terms of capacity and performance. This division of labour is intended to establish a circular economy that will allow electric car batteries to be pre-treated, recycled and used again in vehicles in the form of new batteries.
According to Kwon Hyuk-ho, head of Kia’s domestic business unit, the process will also be applied to the batteries of the EV6, which will be launched later this year. SK Innovation is the battery supplier for Hyundai Motor Group’s E-GMP, on which the EV6 is based.
“After-use battery recycling is one of the responses to the growing demand for metal resources caused by global popularization EVs, and it helps mitigate GHG gas emissions and environmental burdens in Korea,” says Kim Cheol-jung, Head of Corporate Strategy and Development Department at SK Innovation. “This cooperation will serve as a stepping stone to expand the after-use battery utilization system worldwide.”