Whilst reducing carbon emissions is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it is important to note that many decisions related to decarbonisation can have unintended consequences. To date most concerns relate to the economic impact of migrating from fossil fuels to alternative energies, but there are wider ethical, security and even environmental risks which must be taken into account.
The manufacture of battery cells for electric vehicles is a case in point. Little consideration has been given to how to deal with the estimated 250,000 tons of batteries which will reach their end-of-life in Europe alone by 2030.
This is just one of the reasons why the recent announcement by Northvolt, the European supplier of battery cells and systems, is so important. It has produced its first battery cell with 100% recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt from battery waste with a performance on a par with cells produced from freshly-mined metals. All recycling and production processes were completed in Sweden and a ‘giga-plant’ is presently under construction, due to commence production in 2023, which will also have the capability to recycle lithium from batteries.
Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s Chief Environmental Officer, commented: “What we have shown here is a clear pathway to closing the loop on batteries and that there exists a sustainable, environmentally-preferable alternative to conventional mining in order to source raw materials for battery production.”
This is obviously good news in itself but it also has a number of other major supply chain implications.
The ability to manufacture batteries from recycled materials is absolutely critical to the future success of the EV market. Moving from linear ‘take, make waste’ supply chains to circular alternatives will be essential if environmental, ethical and security considerations are to be overcome. Northvolt’s initiative will go some way to lessen the West’s need for virgin materials, reduce end-of-life waste as well as create strategic autonomy.
Source: Transport Intelligence, 30th November 2021
Author: John Manners-Bell