The rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) – and the sophisticated high-power batteries on which they run – represents a moment of profound change for both metal recyclers and their partners in the UK automotive industry.
At stake is the possibility of a truly circular economy for EV batteries, boosting the sustainability of this exciting technology, while safeguarding the valuable resources – including lithium, cobalt, and nickel – on which it relies.
“It took four decades to perfect the processes for recycling an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, but this time we will only have a few years to get it right,” says Helen Waters, Head of Electric Battery Recycling at EMR. “Some of the processes are the same, but many aren’t – from efficiently testing the health of a battery to disassembly and logistics, there’s a number of challenges that EMR has identified in creating this new circular economy, and we’re already busy speaking to car makers, leasing companies and dealerships to get it right.”
The ultimate goal of this work is straightforward: as a global leader in sustainable materials, EMR recycles thousands of end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) every week at its more than 60 UK sites. As EVs become more common on our roads, EMR must ensure it retains its market-leading position as a sustainable, responsible, and efficient recycler of ELVs.
Yet, the current generation of high-performance EVs are so reliable that most will not reach the end of their working lives for at least a decade or more. That’s why EMR is working with the automotive industry now, using product recalls, warranty failures and even the batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters to provide the volume of material needed to scale up a circular economy for EV batteries.
“Our message to the industry is to work with us today so that our businesses can collaborate, whether that is on designing new easy-to-recycle batteries, putting in place the logistics required for this transition, or to further develop the technology required to recycle EV batteries,” says Helen.
A lot of this work is already underway. Over the past two years, EMR has led a project aimed at separating and processing end-of-life EV batteries for re-use or remanufacturing (for renewable energy storage) and, if this isn’t possible, recycling. The RECOVAS consortium brings together car makers, including Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover, and BMW, alongside Connected Energy, Autocraft Solutions, the UK Battery Innovation Centre (UKBIC) and academics from the University of Warwick – a great example of the sector-wide cooperation that will be required going forward. The collaboration is part-funded by the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre.
“RECOVAS isn’t the only example of the way EMR is working with the industry. I have recently been in conversation with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and motorsport companies about ways to improve cars from the design phase onwards, to improve the process of recycling or re-using their batteries at end of life,” says Helen.
The investment EMR is making now represents a significant part of its own journey to net-zero by 2040 – as outlined by the company’s Sustainability strategy. Yet, Helen says that its work on EV battery recycling represents a problem-solving opportunity for the whole industry:
Helen added: “Automotive manufacturers have their own 2030 sustainability targets in place, and many have already pledged to deliver a circular economy for their materials as well. In addition, EU Recycled Content targets – added to concerns about resource security – means the industry is already aware that business as usual is no longer an option.
As more of our infrastructure and transport network becomes reliant on renewable electricity, the EV battery recycling technology we develop now will help create circular supply chains for the material used to build the trains, boats and even wind turbines of the future.”
If you want your business to be a part of this journey, get in touch with EMR’s EV Battery Recycling team today.
For more information on EMR, visit uk.emrgroup.com