Electric vehicle manufacturers face two resource issues. The first involves mining the raw materials to produce large lithium-ion batteries. The second centers on the disposal and recycling of such power packs once the vehicle is no longer in commission. For French multinational mining and metallurgy company Eramet, the second issue presents an opportunity to centralize battery production in Europe.

Currently, corporations mine the necessary resources to manufacture batteries outside of Europe’s borders. In order to leverage the precious metals recovered from dead EVs, Eramet partnered with French utility company SUEZ, engineering college Chimie ParisTech, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to form the ReLieVE project.

The pilot program launched in January, 2020, with Eramet devising the recycling process, SUEZ providing battery collection and dismantlement, and the two universities delivering academic support. The project benefitted from a €4.7M (~$5.1M USD) budget with 60 percent of the funding supplied by EIT RawMaterials, a European Union body.

The team successfully conducted campaigns on a laboratory and pilot scale in December, 2021. Based at Eramet Ideas, the company’s research institute located in Trappes, France, ReLieVe recovered nickel, cobalt, lithium, and manganese with very high levels of efficiency. That near zero-loss recovery serves as the basis for the program’s large-scale "closed-loop" process.

Eramet isn’t just focused on quantity, though. The company hopes to preserve the physical and chemical qualities of the metals re-used in new lithium-ion battery cathodes. ReLieVe’s progress isn’t going unnoticed either. The European Union recently bestowed a €70M (~$76M USD) subsidy on the project.

Along with that news, Eramet already broke ground on a pre-industrial demonstrator at its Eramet Ideas site. The facility will help the team further refine its process when it comes online in Summer, 2023. The firm is also developing plans to establish a second recycling location capable of processing 200,000 batteries per year. Located in Dunkirk, France, the second refinery wouldn’t become operational until 2025.

These days, EV battery production isn’t without its issues, but ReLieVe’s successes prove that we can stretch our resources for generations to come.

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