This article was published on March 11, 2021

Here’s how VW recycles its EV batteries — but it’s got to scale up FAST

It says it can recover 95% of raw materials

Matthew Beedham
Story by

Matthew Beedham

Editor, SHIFT by TNW

Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.

What should we do with electric vehicle battery packs when they can no longer power a car?

In this day and age, there is only one answer: recycle.

Even though the transition to battery electric vehicles is only beginning, we’re well aware of the need to recycle and reuse the precious metals and components contained within lithium-ion batteries.

Given how intensive mining processes are, it’s a total waste to not recover these materials when an EV battery is no longer usable.

German automaker VW has already built a battery recycling plant in Salzgitter, and in a recent video (above) shows off the general process for recycling a battery.

According to the carmaker, it can recover up to 95% of the materials in an EV pack. These can then be reused in future battery packs, reducing waste.

According to Electric Cars Report, conventional recycling methods can only recover about 60% of a batteries materials. So VW’s new process marks a notable step forward.

At present, VW’s Salzgitter plant can recycle 3,600 battery packs each year. That’s a good start, but studies predict that by 2040 there will be more than 7 million tonnes of EV batteries that need recycling. Bear in mind, the average EV battery weighs about 500 kgs.

With over 588,000 EVs registered for use on Germany’s roads, there’s going to be significant battery recycling demand in over the next two decades. More than VW’s plant can handle on its own, unless it scales up… and fast.

If the country — and indeed, the world — is going to keep EV power packs from landfill, it needs to expand its EV battery recycling rapidly over the next decade.

Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

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