The global electric vehicle reuse and recycling market stands at $61.5 million as of 2018 and is expected to reach $7809.1 million by 2025, recording a CAGR of 99.8%. The reuse segment is currently in full swing in terms of revenue; however, over the years, recycling of EV batteries is going to gain traction. With escalating metal prices specially cobalt and impending new legislative drivers such as the dedicated EU Directive for electric vehicle batteries recycling, the recycling market is expected to kick start with exponential growth from 2021 onwards.
The electric vehicle market reached over 1.6 million sales in 2018 with more than 165 models available for sale. Close to 20 million electric vehicles are expected to be sold across the world by 2025, recording a CAGR of 41.7%. China is leading the market with 51% market share, followed by Europe with 26%, North America with 19%, and Japan with 4%. Increasing oil prices, demand for urban vehicles, mega cities, and focus on sustainable transportation has kick-started a substantial trend towards automotive electrification such as hybrids and electric vehicles. Over 2.9 million electric vehicles are likely to be sold globally in 2019 of which 59% will be battery electric vehicles (BEV’s) and 41% will be plug-in hybrids, recording a y-o-y market growth of 78.1%.
The global electric vehicle battery reuse (second life) segment generated revenue of $51.24 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $1,284.91 million by 2025, recording a CAGR of 58.5%. Currently, automobile companies are reusing and reassembling end-of-life electric vehicle battery packs and offering them as lower-cost replacement batteries for older electric cars. Residential and commercial customers also use them in combination with on-site solar power for backup supply. For example, the batteries from lower-range electric vehicles, such as the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR, could provide half a day worth of household electricity usage, while batteries from higher-range electric vehicles, such as the Mercedes SLS and the Tesla Model S, could provide a few days of household electricity usage. Several major power utilities are working with companies — including General Motors, Ford, Toyota, and Nissan — to explore use of the batteries for stationary storage of the power produced in off-peak periods by wind turbines and solar generation stations. Lithium-ion packs also are being tested as backup power storage systems for retail centers, restaurants, and hospitals, as well as for residential solar systems. EVgo has announced its plan of utilizing second-life batteries to its grid-tied public fast charging systems. The packs have been wired up through a 30kW inverter that allows the packs to add significant value to a charging session by avoiding demand charges that might otherwise be incurred.
The global electric vehicle battery recycling market, on the other hand, generated 2018 revenue of $10.26 million and is expected to reach $6,524.20 million by 2025, recording a CAGR of 151.5%. Out of the revenue generated, hydro-metallurgical process constituted 59%, followed by pyro-metallurgical process at 39% and other recycling technologies at 2%. In the pyro-metallurgical process, various components of battery cells are liquefied using high temperatures that enable recovery of transition metals nickel, cobalt, and copper, while lithium and aluminum remain in the slag. Hydro-metallurgy process uses an in-solution chemistry to isolate component chemical compounds from battery waste. It is considered appropriate for the recovery of 18 metals from LIBS, due to good purity, low energy requirements, and minimal air emissions. Mechanical methods are generally recognized to be an effective pre-treatment to deal with spent LIBs; these methods include sieving, crushing, magnetic separation, and so on. Belgian-based Umicore, a leading supplier of key materials for rechargeable batteries, uses a combination of pyro- and hydro-metallurgical processes to recycle all types and sizes of batteries. The company has the facility to recycle about 35,000 electric vehicle batteries per year. The process is mainly designed to recover nickel, cobalt, and copper as an alloy, which is further processed by hydro-metallurgical methods.
Second use of electric vehicle batteries is often seen as an opportunity to delay disposal and recycling, which currently presents burdens for OEMs, as well as an opportunity to squeeze value out of existing resources. Sumitomo has established the world’s first large-scale power storage system in Osaka exclusively utilizing EOL Nissan Leaf batteries repurposed by 4R Energy.
Recycling presents an opportunity for the system owner to increase profit margins and decrease its footprint, in addition to providing benefits to other stakeholders. To facilitate recycling, new energy car battery producers are focusing on adopting standardized and easy-to-dismantle designs, and sharing information about battery controlling systems' interfaces and communication protocols.
Collaborative partnerships between public and private entities will be a paramount strategy for effective advanced vehicle battery recycling. Vertical integration along the value chain presents an opportunity for system owners to increase profit margins and decrease their footprint, in addition to providing benefits to other stakeholders. The BMW Group, Northvolt and Umicore have formed a joint technology consortium in order to work closely together on the continued development of a complete and sustainable value chain for battery cells for electrified vehicles in Europe.
Innovative business models like the Tesla-Umicore partnership create arrangements that are as good for the company as they are for the community, and show how a recycling system can be both profitable and environmentally sound. Supportive regulations that focus on recycling Li-ion batteries will alleviate material scarcity, lower costs of the materials, and avoid production impacts, including the reduction of energy use, emissions, and mining impacts. Solid investment in the collection and recycling infrastructure and technology for new generation vehicle batteries, along with effective regulation, will promote higher collection and recycling rates for Li-ion batteries.
Battery lifecycle management is a huge emerging opportunity that could solve the issue of how to stop electric vehicle batteries ending up as expensive and toxic landfill waste. Enabling new business models, such as “storage on demand” and “storage as a service,” would allow emerging energy companies to generate new revenue streams without spending on asset building.