Primobius to help Mercedes recycle batteries

Primobius, the battery recycling joint venture between the German SMS Group and the Australian battery material firm Neometals, has been awarded the contract to build a shredder plant (‘Spoke’) for lithium-ion batteries at Mercedes-Benz in Kuppenheim.

For Primobius, this is the first commercial supply contract for a recycling plant signed with an international electric car manufacturer and also the first significant turnover.

The new facility is expected to process up to ten tonnes per day. Mercedes-Benz laid the symbolic foundation stone for its battery recycling plant in German Kuppenheim in March 2023. At the time, it was said that the first stage of the plant – mechanical dismantling with that shredder plant in the centre – should start commissioning from the end of this year.

This seems slightly delayed: as the communication from Primobius parent Neometals states, the installation of the shredding plant is to begin in the fourth quarter of 2023, and commissioning is “on schedule” for the first quarter of 2024.

The order with Primobius is unsurprising: Mercedes-Benz declared Primobius a partner in March 2022 when presenting its global recycling strategy. The plant is expected to have an annual capacity of 2,500 tonnes – with ten tonnes per day, it would have to run at full capacity for 250 days a year or correspondingly longer at a lower capacity.

Primobius expects a separate order from Mercedes-Benz shortly for a “hub” plant, meaning the actual recycling plant. This will also be designed for a capacity of ten tonnes per day.

In the recycling industry, a distinction is made between two stages: First, the used batteries or production rejects to be recycled have to be mechanically crushed and pre-sorted – materials such as copper and aluminium are usually already separated here. At the end of this step, the so-called black mass remains, a mixture of battery-active materials. For logistical reasons, this work can often be done in the vicinity of battery factories or major customers, like the spokes of a rim. The actual processing of the black mass into the individual battery materials then takes place in the “hubs” themselves via hydrometallurgical processes. These more expensive hubs are then centrally located in order to process the black mass from several spoke plants. For the Mercedes-Benz pilot plant, however, both the small spoke plant and the hub plant are located in Kuppenheim, a town in Baden-Württemberg, South Germany. (PDF)


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