BASF, one of the world’s foremost names in chemical technology, has just announced plans to build a brand-new lithium-ion battery recycling plant in Brandenburg, Germany. They plan to have the plant up in running by the end of 2024. When operational, it will provide jobs for more than thirty people.
At the heart of the plant will be what’s known in the industry as black-mass. BASF plans to harvest it from spent lithium-ion car batteries. The black mass will eventually be sent to another plant where processing will separate its individual components. Those components will be utilized in the manufacture of new batteries.
Batteries Require Metals
Lithium-ion car batteries make use of a number of important metals. Those metals include lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese. Not only do they exist naturally in limited quantities, but at least a couple of them are also difficult to mine. Recovering the metals from spent batteries reduces the need for new raw materials and helps to close the battery loop.
There is no telling how much black-mass BASF will recover at their new plant. But every little bit helps. It will be interesting to see how many spent batteries the company will get its hands on every year. If they can process enough, they should be able to put a sizable dent in the volume of raw materials European carmakers will have to invest in.
BASF’s plan should work flawlessly given that they will only be accepting spent lithium-ion batteries. Nothing else will be recycled at the plant. With such a singular focus, the company should be able to maximize efficiency. In turn, this maximizes profits.
We’ve Seen This Before
What BASF intends to do is not revolutionary or earth-shattering. In fact, we have seen this kind of thing before. Highly specialized industrial recycling has been utilized by various sectors for as long as most of us can remember. We just don’t hear a lot about it because the legacy media gives most of the attention it pays to recycle to residential programs.
The industrial recycling model works so well that Seraphim Plastics is able to buy industrial scrap plastic in seven states and turn it into regrind. The Tennessee company sells the regrind to manufacturers who mix it with virgin plastic to create new end products.
Like the BASF project in Germany, Seraphim doesn’t waste any time or effort. They only buy certain types of plastics. In addition, loads must already be sorted and cleaned before the company arrives to pick them up. Loads go directly to company facilities and are sent through shredders and grinders in short order. Indeed, a load of plastic pallets can become regrind in a matter of hours.
A Modern Necessity
Back in Germany, EV battery recycling is a modern necessity. As more and more people purchase EVs and hybrids, the demand for lithium-ion batteries grows. We may not be able to keep up with that demand if we don’t do a better job of recycling. That is what the BASF project is all about.
Building new batteries from recycled materials will ultimately be one of the contributing factors should we ever eliminate the internal combustion engine. To make EVs practical, we need to have easy access to an unlimited supply of batteries. Generating that kind of supply cannot rely exclusively on mining virgin raw materials. We need recycled materials to supplement them.
BASF should have its new plant up and running in a couple of years. Here’s hoping they succeed. The plant could make a real difference in manufacturing new EV batteries.