Backed by major motor manufacturers and recycling firms including EMR and uRecycle, as well as the University of Warwick and the UK government, a three-year project entitled RECOVAS is looking into improving the reuse, remanufacture and recycling of batteries from end-of-life electric vehicles.
According to an article from specialist publication next greencar, as elsewhere in the world the UK’s electric car market is growing quickly. While numbers are rapidly accelerating with the government bringing forward the incoming ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2030, they have been growing steadily for many years now and end-of-life electric and hybrid vehicles are entering the recycling stream in ever-growing numbers.
Under current EU law and also post Brexit, manufacturers retain responsibility for the safe disposal of electric car batteries. With that in mind, a new partnership has been launched between European Metal Recycling (EMR) and three vehicle manufacturers (Bentley Motors, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover), the University of Warwick, the Health and Safety Executive, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, Autocraft Solutions Group, Connected Energy, which repurposes electric car batteries, and uRecycle, which will develop the UK’s first commercial-scale recycling facility for automotive battery packs.
Dubbed RECOVAS, the project aims to provide a standardised and reliable route for recycling and repurposing lithium-ion car batteries at a scale that can cope with the expected sales of electric vehicles in the UK. It aims to create a new circular end-of-life supply chain for the electric vehicle industry and is being led by EMR Metals Recycling, a world-leading metal recycler. The project has won grant support from the UK government’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).
The APC accelerates the industrialisation of technologies, which will help to realise net-zero emission vehicles. It is at the heart of the UK government’s commitment to end the country’s contribution to global warming by 2050. Since its foundation in 2013, APC has funded over 113 low-carbon projects involving more than 290 partners. It claims that the technologies developed in these projects are projected to save over 225 million tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of removing the lifetime emissions from 8.8 million cars.
This latest project started will run for three years, by which time the partners expect the circular supply chain to be operating commercially.
Reuse, Recycling and Remanufacturing
Remanufacturing is the process of repairing and re-engineering existing batteries so they could potentially be used in new cars. Reuse involves giving batteries a second life in stationary storage to help balance the use of the electricity grid during peak use and optimise the use of renewable energy and other applications. The new supply chain will help all partners to triage batteries when they arrive at approved end-of-life vehicle treatment facilities across the UK for either remanufacturing, reuse or – where this is not possible – recycling.
“Our aim is to create a circular supply chain for batteries and, in the process, reduce the cost for end-of-life disposal for the vehicle manufacturer or last owner of the car to zero,” explains Roger Morton, Managing Director for Technology and Innovation at EMR.
“By working in partnership with the RECOVAS consortium, electric vehicle manufacturers will develop simple design changes that greatly improve the potential to remanufacture, reuse or recycle their batteries at end of life. This will help to transform the economics of the electric vehicle market.”
Ian Constance, Chief Executive at the APC, adds: “Recycling of electric vehicle batteries is a principal part of the electric supply chain, so it’s vital that we get it right. The investment in innovative projects like RECOVAS by EMR Metal Recycling, awarded as part of our APC 16 programme, demonstrates the importance of creativity and engineering excellence in the UK’s bid for a sustainable and commercial net-zero future.”
Developing and managing the infrastructure to process end-of-life electric vehicles and their batteries will generate new economic activity for the UK and create over 550 green jobs in the UK within the consortium members and their supply chain.
As part of the project, automotive manufacturers have agreed to share more information about the design and construction of their batteries, allowing the consortium to more effectively and efficiently repurpose or recycle them.
According to Morton, “we have a very strong electric vehicle industry in the UK and it is changing fast. RECOVAS is an essential part of the sustainable rollout of electric vehicles.”
Professor David Greenwood, CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult at the University of Warwick, adds: “We are excited to be involved in RECOVAS. It is an essential initiative for the UK electric vehicle sector.”
The UK government is supporting RECOVAS as part of a £49 million investment in technologies that will help the automotive industry to “go green”. Minister for Business and Industry Nadhim Zahawi MP adds: “Backed by government funding, these trailblazing projects will help the UK to build back better by creating all-important green jobs, ensuring the sector can make further strides towards an electrified automotive future.”