In 2022, car recycling organization Febelauto recuperated 120 tons of hybrid and electric vehicle batteries to be recycled. Three times more than the 37 tons of the previous year. “This year, we should arrive at about 400 tons because the volume is expected to triple each year,” explains Catherine Lenaerts, director of Febelauto.
About 48% of all batteries collected will be recycled, and precious materials, such as lithium and cobalt, will be recuperated. However, the largest part (52%) will be reconditioned.
In Belgium, the Umicore Group is the leading circular materials technology company with extensive expertise in the fields of material science, chemistry, and metallurgy. Mid-2022, the company announced it would invest half a billion euros in a new EV battery recycling plant in Europe, the biggest in the world.
“Most of the recuperated battery modules are fully functional and reintegrated into ‘circular’ batteries for domestic use,” explains Catherine Lenaerts, director of Febelauto. “Supermarkets, for instance, can replace their diesel generators with a quieter and more economical system,” she continues. “If supermarkets are equipped with photovoltaic panels, at night, they can run their fridges on batteries.”
Today, Febelauto offers a service to car manufacturers and importers who have to recycle the vehicles sold. But in the long term, it is likely that a market will be created with a high economic value around batteries.
Strategic market worldwide
The 120 tons collected by Febelauto do not represent the full potential of batteries in Belgium because some brands, the French in particular, prefer to centralize the repatriation of used batteries, which will then be reconditioned or recycled.
By 2030, global battery demand is expected to increase 14 times. So, the increase in the number of electric vehicles will make this sector a strategic market worldwide.
That is why the European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional agreement to revise battery rules to take account of technological developments and future challenges. The new rules, which are expected to come into effect in 2023, will make batteries more durable and efficient.
The introduction of the new rules will also affect recycling. For instance, minimum levels of recovered cobalt (16%), lead (85%), lithium (6%), and nickel (6%) from manufacturing and consumer waste will need to be reused in new batteries. The vehicle battery collection targets have been set a 51% by 2028, and 61% by 2030.
Recycling result of 97,3%
Febelauto: “In Belgium, a scrapped vehicle is almost completely recycled. Practically every component is completely recovered; we achieve a recycling result of 97,3% for end-of-life vehicles.” Hardly any percentage of the entire car is not processed. What remains of a discarded car fits in… a jar.