Mercedes has broken ground on a new battery recycling facility in Germany, with a focus on “closing the loop” and allowing the automaker to source more battery materials sustainably.
Two of the biggest challenges in the electric vehicle industry are the price of battery materials and what happens to batteries when they are at the end of their life. However, more and more manufacturers are finding that these two problems can help solve each other through the use of battery recycling. In an effort to source more materials more sustainably and cheaply, Mercedes has broken ground on its first battery recycling facility which will slowly ramp down to help meet the automaker’s material demand.
Mercedes’ new facility in Copenheim, Germany aims to achieve a remarkable recovery rate of 96% for four major materials; lithium, cobalt, nickel and, finally, graphite. It will have an annual recycling capacity of 2,500 tons and aims to start processing by the end of this year.
“This foundation symbolizes the decisive step towards closing the materials cycle for Mercedes-Benz batteries,” says Jörg Borzer, member of the board of management at Mercedes-Benz. “With a recycling rate of more than 96 percent, the ‘mine of tomorrow’ is being created here in Copenheim. An innovative technological approach allows us to integrate valuable raw materials into the new Mercedes-EQ vehicles. We are constantly expanding our expertise in the battery value chain and are taking an important step in our strategy towards “electricity only”.
Mercedes also specifies that the new facility will be 100% carbon-neutral as part of the German company’s ongoing efforts to decarbonize its production facilities in the coming years. This is achieved through a combination of solar energy installed at the facility and green energy purchased from the grid.
German regulators were quick to point out that the new facility will also be a vital part of the country’s efforts to reduce dependence on rare earth imports, which have been particularly affected on the European continent by the COVID pandemic, COVID restrictions in China, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This is particularly important in light of the limited availability of important and much-needed raw materials such as lithium, cobalt or nickel,” noted Thekla Walker, Baden-Württemberg Minister of Environment, Climate Protection and Energy Sector. Crises like the coronavirus pandemic or Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine have clearly demonstrated our dependence on supply chains and primary raw materials. Increased recycling can help reduce this dependence on important raw materials and thus enhance the resilience of the economy.”
Mercedes joins the likes of Tesla, General Motors and many others, in establishing battery recycling capabilities around the world. Tesla has already announced that it will make recycled materials a larger part of its production with the help of redwood materials. GM has worked closely with Lithion to create battery recycling as part of its planned rollout of several electric vehicles in the near future. While at the same time, national governments are also incentivizing many of these projects to help reduce the waste that could become a problem in a fully electrified future.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded one of the first-ever lithium battery recycling loans to Upstate New York-based battery recycling company, LiCycle. As the need for this infrastructure grows, the agency is expected to continue investing in the future.
As Mercedes rapidly grows in the number of electric vehicles it sells globally over the coming years, battery recycling plants like these will be crucial to its growth and success. We hope it will serve as a role model for other manufacturers going forward, helping to make electric vehicles increasingly more sustainable.
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