A recycling joint venture between Northvolt and Hydro, known as Hydrovolt, has commenced commercial recycling operations in Fredrikstad, southern Norway. Hydrovolt is Europe’s largest electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling plant, capable of processing approximately 12,000 tons of battery packs per year (around 25,000 EV batteries).
With the plant now online, a sustainable solution for handling Norway’s entire volume of electric vehicle batteries being retired from the market, or reaching end-of-life, is now available.
The process being employed by Hydrovolt can recover and isolate around 95 percent of the materials in a battery including, plastics, copper, aluminium and black mass, a compound containing nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium.
Several novel concepts designed to maximise recovery of materials are found within the plant, including a dust collection system which ensures valuable material typically lost through mechanical recycling steps is captured.
Hydrovolt is exploring an expansion of recycling capacity within Europe, with a long-term target to recycle approximately 70,000 tons of battery packs by 2025, the equivalent to approximately 150,000 electric batteries. This target increases to 300,000 tons of battery packs by 2030, equivalent to approximately 500,000 batteries.
This is great news both in terms of the electric vehicle battery industry becoming more sustainable and in helping to deliver the essential materials required to create future batteries.
Peter Qvarfordt, Hydrovolt CEO, said: “Hydrovolt represents a milestone on Norway’s trailblazing journey towards widespread electric transportation. Norway has been leading the world in adoption of electric vehicles for some years, but what has been missing is recycling capacity to ensure a sustainable solution for those batteries as they reach end-of-life.
“Today, Hydrovolt is scaled to handle the entire volume of end-of-life batteries in Norway, but we’re now looking towards expanding to ensure we’re prepared for the higher flows of batteries we know are coming.”
The recycling of batteries will contribute directly to the sustainability of the battery industry and is necessary for the fulfilment of emerging European regulations governing batteries, including forthcoming mandatory recycling targets.
Arvid Moss, Hydro Executive Vice President, said: “Batteries play a key role in the world’s transition to renewable energy. Through Hydrovolt, we are laying the foundations for a sustainable and circular supply chain for batteries in Europe.
“Batteries reaching end-of-life will get a new life through the recovery of black mass and aluminium. Aluminium can be recycled with only five percent of the initial energy required to produce primary aluminium, which makes it a perfect material for a circular economy.”
Significantly, the recovery of black mass, a powder containing metals of nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium, will reduce today’s dependence on mining as a source for primary raw materials, and all the relative risks and vulnerabilities associated with it.
Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt Chief Environmental Officer, said: “Recycling end-of-life batteries is a cornerstone to ensuring the electric vehicle transition is a true success from an environmental perspective.
“The metals used in battery production are finite, but by substituting raw materials mined from the Earth with recycled materials we can not only cut the carbon footprint of batteries but enable the sustainable long-term use of lithium-ion battery technology.”
Processing black mass into battery-grade material requires a hydrometallurgical treatment such as is being established at Northvolt’s Revolt Ett recycling plant in Skellefteå, Sweden. By 2025, it is expected Hydrovolt will produce over 2,000 tonnes of black mass annually.
Northvolt have become a key player in the electric vehicle battery industry, especially in Europe, working with many of the big original equipment manufacturer (OEMs) in the automotive space.
At the end of last year, the company announced it would be collaborating with Volvo Carsto open a joint research and development (R&D) centre in Gothenburg as part of a SEK 30 billion (£2.5 billion/$3.3 billion/€2.9 billion) investment in electric vehicle (EV) battery development and manufacturing.
Volkswagen Group also announced it would be investing a further £438 million ($620 million/€500 million) in Northvolt AB with a total volume of $2.75 billion (£1.94 billion/€2.26 billion). This will maintain the Group’s 20 percent stake in the company.