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Battery recycling: Full power for e-mobility and energy transition

Whether it's an e-car, e-bike or e-scooter, electromobility is booming. The number of battery-powered vehicles on German roads is increasing rapidly. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, German automakers increased production of e-cars by almost 86 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year. There was a similar increase in new registrations. As a result, the stock of e-cars has doubled within a year.

Black mass with green potential

As the number of electric vehicles increases, so does the demand for batteries and the valuable raw materials they contain: lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite. Raw materials are finite, so recycling will play a key role in determining the long-term success of e-mobility as a market of the future. On average, a battery lasts eight to ten years. After that, it is disposed of as hazardous waste - along with the raw materials it contains. This is followed by mechanical recycling, which shreds and treats the battery.

What remains at the end of the process is a complex material known as black mass. Contrary to what the name suggests, this powder has great potential because the raw materials are still inside it. This is where Aurubis comes in. The Hamburg-based multi-metal supplier wants to recover the raw materials contained in the black mass and make them usable for new batteries.

The responsible use of resources

Recycling has long been a strategic growth factor for Aurubis. The company also wants to take a leading role in the field of e-mobility and is focusing on the responsible use of resources. The goal: a closed recycling loop.

In recent years, Aurubis has developed a hydrometallurgical process that filters the rare raw materials out of the black mass. The patent application is in progress. After initial tests in the laboratory, the company started up a pilot plant in Hamburg in March 2022 to test the application on a larger scale. Furthermore, Roland Harings, CEO of Aurubis AG, has already set his sights on the next stage: "I am firmly convinced: within the next five years, Aurubis will commission an industrial-scale plant for battery recycling." The company plans to invest 200 million euros and integrate the future plant into its own smelter network. In this way, Aurubis will be able to process the recovered metals directly - a closed cycle.