Context and Scope

This project aims to investigate the entire value chain of automotive battery recycling (rechargeable Lithium-ion) and stationary energy storage applications from an economic, technical, operational and societal cost-benefit perspective. Understanding this requires research on the linking of different steps of the value chain of battery recycling (logistics, dismantling, possible reuse and recycling) and on the technical potential as well as the economic feasibility to fulfil these. This research results in an overview of the feasibility, feasibility and competitive desirability of both the different components in the value chain and the entire value chain of battery recycling. Through participation and valorisation, companies thus gain insight into the potential of the entire value chain, their own position within it (including existing technical capacities or ROI of investments in additional technical capacities) and the relationship with other companies to link the different steps. This research can also inspire companies to fill possible gaps in the value chain if they show economic potential.

Four components (logistics, process & automation, recycling and second life applications) are foreseen to fill in the value chain of end-of-life batteries. By identifying business opportunities for each of these components (taking into account economic, policy, social and technical factors), a heterogeneous group of companies is addressed. These are enabled to assess the feasibility of the entire value chain, as well as to explore opportunities in terms of their own position and relationships with other companies.

This study fits within the context of Flanders’ transition to a more circular economy. By 2050, Flanders wants to achieve this objective. This means that products, materials and raw materials will be retained in the economy for as long as possible and that waste creation will be kept to a minimum. This evolution increases the competitiveness of the economic fabric by protecting companies against raw material scarcity and the resulting volatile raw material prices. The need for this will first be felt in production processes in which scarce materials are processed. The timely focus on the circular evolution therefore means that a competitive advantage is realized. An interesting side effect is that the transition to a circular economy offers new business opportunities and more innovative and efficient ways of producing and consuming, which increase the sustainability of the Flemish economy.

Concretely, the energy transition leads to an increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries, both for mobile and non-mobile applications. These batteries contain many critical materials and the strongly growing demand puts further pressure on the availability. An important gap is that these batteries are currently dismantled manually, with increasing volumes optimizing both dismantling and the entire value chain. By developing an appropriate end-of-life management strategy for batteries, an answer can be found to this problem. There are several challenges to achieve different circular strategies with higher volumes on an industrial scale, such as reuse, automatic dismantling of batteries for recycling, final recycling and the economic feasibility of this model including logistics.
Flanders has the potential to be an important player in the value chain of battery recycling, but in order to tap into this potential, it is important to gain a better insight in the economic feasibility of an industrial automation of dismantling, the logistic chain as well as the scalability at an early stage.