How to move the battery to the trunk

Electric car batteries: this is how recycling works

Depending on the time and intensity of use, lithium-ion batteries lose capacity. But then they are by no means worthless. And they can still do their job for many years to come in Second Life.

After a tough struggle for that Electric car the automakers are finally bringing more and more Models with acceptable ranges. The long-awaited market ramp-up started with a delay, but in a few years electric cars will be part of the normal street scene.

Many people are already rightly asking: What happens to them Batteriesif you want your Lose capacity and because of the then limited range exchanged become. So there is a massive threat in a few years Disposal problem?

A future market: Batteries in Second Life

The answer to the question of a disposal problem falls divided in two out.

The first answer: Batteries that are no longer powerful enough for use in the car are by no means worthless. As a rule, they will still have one after approx. 1500 to 2500 charging cycles Energy content of 70 to 80 percent their original capacity. It is therefore neither economically nor ecologically sensible to dispose of them in this condition. On the contrary: The batteries can be used in the so-called "Second Life" can still be used in stationary operation.

The stationary operation has the advantage that the battery is much less stressed than in a car with its constant acceleration and recuperation phases. Stationary operation is much more even and charging and discharging are slow, which is much more gentle on the battery.

Corresponding series of measurements from Aging processes in the laboratory have shown that Second Life is quite another 10 to 12 years can last. That means: A battery will only be a case for disposal after more than 20 years with average use.

The BMW plant in Leipzig, where the BMW i3 is built, shows how relevant the "second life" of batteries can be. BMW has one there stationary storage erected from 700 interconnected batteries of the i3 consists. Old and new batteries are used in a mixed manner. The one produced at the BMW plant is produced in this large-scale storage facility Solar and wind powersaved and then used for production.

There are a number of such projects across Germany with which the operators are developing new business models. An example: Also on Ferry terminal in the port of Hamburg stands a Large storagewith i3 batteries. The capacity of the batteries housed in two containers is at least two megawatts. They serve to compensate for fluctuations or peaks in demand in Hamburg's power grid.

As Power storage for theprivate household In contrast, a single battery in an electric car is enough. A battery with a capacity of 20 kWh can store more energy than is usually the case in a family household buffer is needed.

Efficient recovery: recycling in several process steps

The second answer: The ones contained in a battery raw materials - the most well-known are lithium and cobalt - are far too valuable to be left unused. So it's time to get through these treasures recycling to lift.

Plants that Lithium-ion batteries can recycle in large proportions, there are now some. However, they cannot yet recycle on the industrial scale that will be necessary in the future because of not enough electric car batteries yet However, the most efficient possible recovery of the materials is a prerequisite for the effort to pay off economically and ecologically.

It is anything but up to date Legal situation These are the requirements for recycling efficiency - 50 percent of the material must be reused - much too little (Battery Act of 2009). The required 50 percent (weight counts) can only be achieved by removing the housing and components, which are usually made of aluminum, steel or plastic. The goal, too critical raw materials Recovering the battery is clearly a failure.

Experts are therefore calling for the 2006 EU directive, which regulates the recycling of old batteries by law. The guideline is like the German Battery Act from a time when neither electric cars nor lithium-ion batteries of this size were in view. Prof. Bernd Friedrich from RWTH Aachen University, who conducts research in the field, formulates the requirement for a revised EU regulation as follows: “A recycling process is efficient if it contains at least the target elements such as graphite, lithium or cobalt 90 percent wins back. "

Research contract for pilot plant

Prof. Friedrich's chair currently has one Research assignment from the Federal Ministry of Economics to develop a recycling system that meets this requirement. The planned Pilot plant is supposed to handle a volume of 25,000 tons of electric car batteries per year. However, it will be two to three years at the earliest to find out who is building and operating the system.

A plant from the Belgian company is already in operation Umicore. The Batteries from Formula E racing cars used in 2015 and 2016. The company emphasizes that the batteries are dismantled in such a way that the environment is not harmed by dangerous substances and that the metal alloys obtained can be reused in batteries.

The automakers too Audi and BMW work with Umicore. The goal of these partnerships is to create valuable To recover raw materials up to 95 percent. In addition, knowledge should be gained about the degree of purity of the recycled materials, says Audi. Umicore's annual capacity for recycling old e-car batteries is around 7,000 tons. Based on a battery weight of 300 kilograms, that would be around 23,000 batteries.

But battery recycling is not just about lithium, cobalt or graphite, but also about the, for example liquid electrolytes. On this point, the company has Duesenfeld made good progress. According to their information, the new recycling process would no longer produce any toxic fluorine compounds, as is the case with the previous methods. In addition, 40 percent less process energy is required for Duesenfeld recycling, which means that 40 percent less CO2 is generated.

No recycling process will ever be 100 percent free of residues, says Prof. Friedrich. That is why it is important to identify the residual materials as precisely as possible Environmental pollution to investigate. But it is about very small quantities: “If it is ensured that all available test methods show the green light, then one is against Landfilling of residues nothing objectionable. "

Recycling is all about these substances

A Traction battery especially contains a lot Aluminum, steel and plastics. A battery with a weight of around 400 kilograms and a capacity of 50 kWh contains about

  • 6 kg of lithium

  • 10 kg of manganese

  • 11 kg cobalt

  • 32 kg of nickel

  • 100 kg graphite

The illustration shows in which components the batteries themselves what raw materials and how much weight percent they each make up. The numbers come from a study by the Ifeu Institute. Click on the area of ​​the battery that interests you and the appropriate diagram will open. The specific material proportions are numbered with the cursor or with a fingertip.

In order to achieve the highest possible recovery rate in future recycling, a Procedure in several steps thought. It starts with the manual disassembly
a battery system. It follows that Sort by,Shredding and the thermal melting. At the end of the process there is the Material separation. According to today
A large part of the battery materials can already be recovered as of the current state, but some of the process steps are still there too energy consuming and too expensive.

Prof. Friedrich declares to Research needs: “There will be no recycling process that is not economically viable. The question is: where does the money come from? Does it matter about the value of the products? Or it is covered by a disposal fee that anyone who puts batteries on the market would have to pay to the recycling company. " Economically viable be the whole thing with only one increased degree of automation of the individual process steps and with accordingly large quantities while processing.


Research by the ADAC shows that when it comes to re-using and recycling batteries, far more is technically possible than is currently required by the regulations. The ADAC welcomes that the EU commission has carried out a review of the relevant battery directive and a Amendment stands in the room.

Since the majority of traction batteries are still in use in vehicles or second-life applications for a long time, it will take a while before larger numbers of used traction batteries are recycled. It is all the more important to use the time clear regulatory framework to create with which recycling and second life can be further developed. Because you are only well prepared when electromobility has become a mass market.

ADAC recommendations to manufacturers

  • Implementation of a sustainable and recycling-friendly battery designs, so that a battery can be repaired inexpensively, reused sensibly and finally recycled and disposed of with little effort ("repair, reuse, recycling")

  • Creating one standardized access and Battery data transparency (digital tracking and identification system).

ADAC recommendations to politicians

  • For the Traction batteries from electric vehicles, the European legislator should one separate category Define in the relevant regulations so that it is dedicated to this increasingly important battery technology Collection quotas and Recycling efficient can be specified that correspond to the state of the art.

  • The goals for the Recycling efficiency should be based on the technically feasible status over 90 percent be raised in order to achieve the actual goal of a high level of material recycling. Especially for the critical functional materials Cobalt, nickel and lithium An ambitious specification at the material level appears to be expedient.

  • For the further use of used batteries outside of the vehicle (second life) suitable framework conditions be created. Obstacles in the reallocation (sale or transfer to third parties) and use of batteries for second-life applications such as unresolved questions of liability and disposal responsibility could otherwise make it more difficult to continue using used traction batteries.

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