UK looks to broaden battery recycling capabilities

Consultation announced to improve rate of end-of-life battery material collection

UK looks to broaden battery recycling capabilities
The UK is trying to bring some new thinking to its battery recycling

The UK government has proposed a range of plans to build out a circular battery recycling economy, including guidelines for collaboration between recycling firms and OEMs for optimising battery design for material recovery, as well as improving processes for end-of-life battery material collection.

Coming as part of the government’s new UK battery strategy, the plans also aim to add capabilities for battery reuse and repair in addition to recycling to circular battery economy.

The government “is committed to publishing a consultation and call for evidence as early as possible in 2024, focusing on increasing collection rates for batteries and encouraging best practice in end-of-life management of all battery types and chemistries”, the government’s newly released strategy document says.

“The UK currently has an emerging capacity to recycle lithium-ion batteries,” it says. But the government concedes that ”most EV batteries being dismantled and shipped to Europe”, with the country only having one full industrial-scale recycling facility, run by Recyclus Group.

The facility, located in Wolverhampton in England’s Midlands region, is able to turn 22,000t/yr of spent lithium-ion batteries into black mass without using water.

However, the new battery strategy aims to broaden the range of commercially viable methods of end-of-life battery recycling, through a new directive for the Recovas recycling consortium, which was founded in 2013 and consists of OEMs Jaguar Land Rover, BMW Motorsport and Bentley Motors, amongst universities and industry players.

“Recovas is designing guidelines and developing a process to analyse used batteries and direct them to the most appropriate stream, be that repair, reuse, or recycling,” the consortium says.

“This project is taking place in partnership with leading automotive manufacturers, who have agreed to collaborate on the design and construction of their batteries to enable greater potential future uses and material recovery once they reach the end of their life in a vehicle,” Recovas adds.

The project has received a £4.4mn ($5.55mn) grant from research non-profit the Advanced Propulsion Centre, which will cover nearly half of the project.

The government’s battery strategy taskforce also says it is considering new regulatory levers, including introducing a certification and re-certification system for second life and repurposed batteries to align with “international standards for reuse, repurposing, and recycling in line with our closest trading partners”.

Potential regulations under this banner could therefore include aligning UK policy with EU’s lab testing and labelling requirements for new and second-life batteries.

The plan also announces an unspecified amount of investment for “cutting-edge battery recycling facilities such as those in construction in London and the West Midlands”.

“We must ensure that manufacturing involves the entire supply chain, right from design to manufacturing and recycling, closely connecting car and battery industries,” says Stephen Phipson, CEO of manufacturers association Make UK. “Recycling will also be very important to recover those critical materials that are essential for the low-carbon economy.”

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