Are there any existing procedures for the recycling of electric vehicle car batteries, and if so what are they? In particular I'm interested in those used in the Volkswagen E-Golf, though general information is appreciated too.
Li-Ion batteries are worth recycling just for the lithium in them. This material can be re-refined, and made into new batteries. In this use they should show similar cost savings to recycled vs new aluminum.
There is also the prospect of repurposing a worn battery for stationary use. E.g. It stores 30 kWh in your car for 3 years, then stores 10 kWh in your house for the next 3-10 years. One source I read proposed that the used battery market would help older EV's hold value.
Edit: I'm wrong. See https://waste-management-world.com/a/1-the-lithium-battery-recycling-challenge
Summary: At present recycling lithium from batteries costs about 5 times the cost of mined lithium. However the cost of the lithium is only about 3% of the cost of the battery. So the price of lithium rising by a factor of 5 would make recycled Li economical, and would raise the price of making batteries by about 12%
Battery recycling today is handled by 3rd parties. This leads to issues of economic value on materials extracted since they must cover a large variety of battery types and cannot specialize on any one. Plus, the materials extracted from these recycled batteries that do not represent a 1-to-1 demand for replacement. So we have room for innovation here still.
I don't have information specific to VW, but I do know where to look for Tesla's efforts on this as they continue to lead the charge for sustainable energy. See page 14-15 of Tesla's 2019 Impact Report, which puts it well:
All materials contained in a battery remain in their original form at end-of-life and the vast majority of these materials are then captured in the recycling process. Presently, only high-value elements are recycled and re-introduced into the supply chain. However, as recycling technology improves, we strive to re-introduce more and more materials back into their original commodity markets. Over half of the materials in a battery cell are metals, which is great for sustainability given they are infinitely recyclable. The remaining materials are plastics, organics, and other difficult to re-use materials. Research is underway by organizations all over the world to improve the ability to recycle these remaining materials.
Today, we work with third-party recyclers around the world to process all scrap and end-of-life batteries to recover valuable metals. Our recycling partners work with us to ensure that non-valuable or non-recoverable materials from the batteries are disposed of responsibly.
Tesla is currently developing a unique battery recycling system at Gigafactory Nevada that will process both battery manufacturing scrap and end-of-life batteries. Through this system, the recovery of critical minerals will be maximized along with the recovery of all metals used in Tesla battery cells, such as copper, aluminum and steel. Our ultimate goal is to develop a recycling processes that has high recovery rates, low costs, and a low environmental impact. From an economic perspective, we expect to recognize significant savings over the long term, as the costs associated with large-scale battery material recovery and recycling will be far lower than purchasing and transporting new materials to put into cells.
Notably: Tesla co-founder JB Strabuel stepped down (but not away) from Tesla in 2019 to start a company dedicated to closed-loop battery recycling called Redwood Materials.
- See: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-jb-straubel-ramps-battery-recycling-business/ and/or this YouTube video from HyperChange: https://youtu.be/08FOfbhhKlw for more on this.
Tesla's Battery Day event on September 22, 2020 expanded on all of this and explains that at some point Tesla expects to get to a steady state where they won't need to do any more mining at all across all of their products. Basically: New batteries will come exclusively from old batteries. Hear it for yourself here: https://youtu.be/l6T9xIeZTds?t=4679 (Timestamp: 1:18:00 - 1:19:32).
Reuse beats recycling. The active duty life span of an EV battery (cells and control electronics both) is hugely longer outside of an EV, so reclaiming lithium from them should be a last resort only at the point where no more economical uses for them exist.
Thinking of the huge electric vehicle batteries as resources to recycle, once they no longer serve their first-life purpose of pushing cars around streets, is wasteful, when they have a second life as grid or home scale power backups like Tesla's PowerWall.
End of functionality as a car battery is reached very long before end of functionality in scenarios where properties like weight to capacity ratios don't matter.
In the recycling of lithium-ion batteries, cobalt is first in importance while lithium is second:
"Rechargeable battery waste, particularly from lithium-ion batteries, will become an increasingly menacing environmental challenge in the future as the demand for these through their usage in electric vehicles and other gadgets increases dramatically," Ajayan said.
"It's important to recover strategic metals like cobalt that are limited in supply and are critical for the performance of these energy-storage devices"...
New 'blue-green' solution for recycling world's batteries | Science Daily (sciencedaily.com, April 1st, 2019) : https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190401115823.htm
Cobalt and lithium are central to the development and deployments of [sustainable] technologies—largely due to their use in lithium-ion batteries—and as such, the demand for both minerals has and is predicted to increase substantially. The supplies of both minerals, however, is not projected to meet the demand, with shortfalls expected in the coming decade. Concerns along the supply chains of both minerals—including the potential use of child labour in cobalt extraction and the intensive use of water and energy in lithium production—place additional strain on the responsible sourcing of both.
Sustainability and Second Life: The case for cobalt and lithium recycling | International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD.org, March 2019) : https://www.iisd.org/sites/default/files/publications/sustainability-second-life-cobalt-lithium-recycling.pdf
Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining has developed a method to recycle cobalt from spent electric car batteries, allowing conservation of a relatively scarce metal, Nikkei has learned...
...Mined in only a few regions of the world, including parts of Africa, the supply of cobalt is expected to fall short of demand in the next few years as electric vehicles become more widespread.
Milestone reached in the recycle of cobalt from spent EV batteries | Nikkei Asian Review (asia.nikkei.com, March 28, 2019) : https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Markets/Commodities/Milestone-reached-in-the-recycle-of-cobalt-from-spent-EV-batteries
But presumably, nickel is third in importance:
The presence of LiCoO2 and LiCoxNi(1 − x)O2 in the cathodic material of Li-ion and Li-polymer batteries has stimulated the recovery of Co and Ni by hydrometallurgical processes. In particular, the two metals were separated by SX method and then recovered by electrochemical (galvanostatic and potentiostatic) processes.
Nickel and cobalt recycling from lithium-ion batteries by electrochemical processes | Science Direct (sciencedirect.com, 2005) : https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X05000164
As a side note, consider that BYD battery-powered electric-vehicles use lithium-iron-phosphate batteries. The lithium-iron-phosphate batteries have less fire risk than lithium-ion batteries.
Where I live, there is a mine that was planned to be used for uranium extraction. The uranium concentration is 20 ppm, or in other words 0.002%. Source.
An EV battery contains 11.6 kWh per kg of lithium. So, 11.6 kWh = 1 kg of lithium. 11.6 kWh battery however weighs ~50 kg. So, about 2% of the battery is lithium.
Now, if uranium can be mined at 0.002% concentration, and a battery contains 2% of lithium, I am 100% certain that a used battery can be treated as an extraordinarily high-grade ore.
Summary: the battery is a very high-grade ore and thus the precious metals in disposed batteries WILL be reused.