Mercedes has broken ground on a new battery recycling facility in Germany, focusing on “closing the loop” and allowing the automaker to source more battery materials sustainably.
Two of the biggest challenges in the industry of electric vehicles are the price of battery materials and what happens with batteries when they are at the end of their useable lives. Yet more and more manufacturers are finding that these two problems can help solve each other through the use of battery recycling. In efforts to source more materials more sustainably and cheaply, Mercedes has broken ground on its first battery recycling facility that will slowly ramp to help meet the automaker’s material demand.
Mercedes’ new facility in Kuppenheim, Germany, aims to achieve a remarkable 96% recovery rate for four key materials; lithium, cobalt, nickel, and eventually graphite. It will have an annual recycling capacity of 2,500 tons and aims to begin processing by the end of this year.
“This foundation symbolizes the decisive step towards closing the material cycle for batteries from Mercedes-Benz,” says Jörg Burzer, Member of the Board of Management at Mercedes-Benz. “With a recycling rate of more than 96 percent, a ‘mine of tomorrow’ is being created here in Kuppenheim. The innovative technology approach enables us to incorporate the valuable raw materials into new Mercedes-EQ vehicles. We are consistently expanding our expertise of the battery value chain and are taking an important step in our strategy towards ‘Electric Only.'”
Mercedes also specifies that the new facility will be 100% carbon neutral as part of the German automaker’s continuing efforts to decarbonize its production facilities in the coming years. This is achieved through a mix of solar energy installed at the facility and green energy purchased from the grid.
German regulators were quick to point out that the new facility will also be a vital part of the country’s efforts to limit dependence on rare earth imports, which were particularly affected on the European continent due to the COVID pandemic, COVID restrictions in China, and the Rissian invasion of Ukraine.
“This is of particular importance in view of the limited availability of important and highly sought-after raw materials such as lithium, cobalt or nickel,” noted Thekla Walker, Minister for the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg. “Crises such as the corona pandemic or the brutal Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have clearly demonstrated our dependence on supply chains and primary raw materials. Increased recycling can help to reduce this dependence on critical raw materials and thus strengthen the resilience of the economy.”
Mercedes joins the likes of Tesla, General Motors, and many others, establishing battery recycling capabilities worldwide. Tesla has already announced that it would make recycled materials a bigger part of its production with the help of Redwood materials. General Motors has worked closely with Lithion to establish battery recycling as part of its planned introduction of numerous EVs in the near future. While at the same time, national governments are also incentivizing many of these projects to help reduce the waste that could become an issue in a wholly electrified future.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Energy granted one of its first-ever lithium battery recycling loans to a battery recycler in Upstate New York, LiCycle. And with the growing need for this infrastructure, the agency is expected to continue to invest in the future.
As Mercedes rapidly grows the number of electric vehicles it sells globally over the coming years, battery recycling plants like this will be critical to its growth and success. Hopefully, it can pose as an example for other manufacturers moving forward, helping to make EVs increasingly more sustainable.
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