Mercedes starts construction of first battery recycling plant

Following its plan to start recycling electric vehicle lithium-ion battery systems this year, Mercedes has laid the first brick of its dedicated plant in Kuppenheim. If the works keep to the schedule, the first packs from its electrified vehicles, so plug-ins included, will be dismantled by the end of 2023.

“This foundation symbolizes the decisive step toward closing the material cycle for batteries from Mercedes-Benz,” said Jörg Burzer, a member of the board of Mercedes, at the opening ceremony. As we reported before, Mercedes targets a recycling rate of 96% from its batteries. The first recyclates will be nickel, cobalt, and lithium. Later, graphite will also be recovered.

‘Mine of tomorrow’

Stuttgart’s carmaker works with technology partner Primobius and Australian project developer Neometals. At first, the batteries will be mechanically dismantled, but a few months later, it will partly switch to a hydrometallurgical process in a pilot phase.

The latter offers higher recycling rates. It is also the process that Volkswagen deploys in its battery recycling pilot plant in Salzgitter. But as VW works with outside partners to complete the process, Mercedes aims at a full-scale in-house project, which is a first in Europe, according to the carmaker. Its official statement regards the plant as a “mine of tomorrow”.

End-to-end solution

When all the phases are completed, the Mercedes-Benz battery recycling factory in Kuppenheim will cover every step as part of a holistic approach: from dismantling at the module level to shredding and drying and, as mentioned, processing of battery-grade materials.

The recovered materials will be fed back into the recycling loop to produce more than 50 000 battery modules for new Mercedes-Benz models. But the output can rise as more know-how on the recycling process is gathered.

Two more factories

No sufficient amount of batteries from its own fleet are currently readily available, so at the start, the plant will deal with rejects from production, vehicles used for testing, or those packs that have failed the high-quality standards. Larger quantities will be feeding in as early EQ models are nearing the end of their lifecycle.

The construction of the German site follows different phases. Mercedes is still in talks with the public sector for further expansion, adding that progression is promising. The factory in Kuppenheim also serves as a test bed and a model for two similar factories in China and the US.


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