News from Japan where energy specialist JERA Co., Inc. (“JERA”) and Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. (“Sumitomo Chemical”) have received funding under the Green Innovation Fund, to conduct a project to develop a process for recycling lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (the “Project”), has been accepted. One of the big problems with electric cars and vans is that the batteries won’t hold a charge after about 7-9 years, as the cells degrade. It’s a physics thing, but science is trying to find a way around the problem, which can cost owners of EVs big time, a new battery pack for a Tesla can cost from $13,000-$20,000, depending on the model.
But the crux of the problem is breaking down the components that make up each lithium battery cell, and effectively recycling them – if you can’t, then the whole green utopian dream really falls apart, as every battery powered car generates more landfill waste – and it’s highly toxic waste too.
BREAKING DOWN PARTS
With the number of electric vehicles expected to increase as part of realizing carbon neutrality, there is a need in Japan—a country with few natural resources—to separate and collect the rare metals contained in used batteries for reuse as battery materials, and to do so in a way that is efficient and has a low environmental impact.
The current roasting method, however, because it not only emits CO2 but also oxidizes and degrades the materials, makes it difficult to efficiently collect rare metals.
The Project aims to solve these challenges by developing a low environmental impact process for recycling lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. The term of the Project is 9 years from FY 2022 to FY 2030.
In the Project, JERA, in cooperation with Waseda University, Kumamoto University, and others, will develop and demonstrate a non-roasting method for separating and collecting battery materials by utilizing its patent-pending high voltage pulse technology. Sumitomo Chemical, in cooperation with Kyoto University, will develop and demonstrate a direct recycling technology that recycles, without returning them to metal, the cathode materials JERA has separated and collected.
Sumitomo Chemical also plans to develop an upcycling technology that raises the cathode materials’ performance to at least the same level as before recycling.
Through these initiatives, the two companies aim both to efficiently collect and reuse cathode materials and other battery materials without oxidization or degradation and to reduce CO2 emissions and costs.
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