Swedish manufacturer Northvolt, which is partially owned by Volkswagen and BMW, announced that it has produced its first lithium-ion battery cell using 100% recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt. The company recovered the materials from battery waste through a low-energy hydrometallurgical treatment, which involves the use of an aqueous solution to isolate the metals and separate them from impurities.
“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,” said Northvolt Chief Environmental Officer Emma Nehrenheim. “The recycling process can recover up to 95% of the metals in a battery to a level of purity on par with fresh virgin material.”
Northvolt aims to be producing 30 GWh worth of cells per year with 50% recycled material by 2030. The company is building a new facility next to its Northvolt Ett factory in Skellefteå, Sweden, which will be able to recycle 125,000 tons of batteries annually. The recycling plant will process both end-of-life batteries from EVs and production scrap from the Northvolt Ett plant.
Nehrenheim says that some 250,000 ton of lithium-ion batteries are expected to reach end-of-life in Europe by 2030. “Ultimately, a commitment to circularity will not only significantly reduce the environmental impacts of the battery industry, but also contribute to our vision to set a new benchmark for sustainability in manufacturing.”
The first production line at Northvolt Ett is scheduled to be completed this year, and annual capacity will eventually expand to 60 GWh. The company says it has an order backlog of more than €13 billion.
A second battery plant with of up to 50 GWh of annual capacity is being developed through Northvolt’s joint venture with Volvo, and production is scheduled to start in 2026.