How to make electric batteries without draining mineral resources? Northvolt, a Swedish start-up, will in the coming weeks open its first super factory in Europe. A new experiment: recycling of raw materials for car batteries.
From our correspondent in Stockholm,
Northvolt will produce its first battery cell based on completely recycled nickel-manganese-cobalt, without compromising performance.
It’s less well known, but besides its battery plant, Northvolt has also built another plant to process old batteries, where it expects to have a capacity of 125,000 tons per year. Battery components are immersed in an aqueous solution to isolate the minerals and separate them from the impurities. This process, according to Northvolt, can recover up to 95% of a battery’s metals to a purity level equivalent to that of the original material.
So that’s good news, because access to these minerals and other rare earths is often a problem. Take cobalt for example, the largest producer in the world is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cobalt is mined there under tragic social and environmental conditions, and China takes most of this production. So we have to find other solutions.
Strong mining capabilities
And if Northvolt, although recycled, still needs cobalt, it can always turn to Sweden. Because the Scandinavian kingdom has a very important mining potential. Several cobalt deposits have been identified, notably at Bergslagen, near Stockholm. Regarding graphite, another essential element, a Canadian company has a very advanced project in Woxna, 250 km north of the Swedish capital.
Thinking about this offering is, however, a strategic mission for Northvolt, because unlike many of its competitors in Asia, who aren’t too careful about the origin of their raw materials, the Swedish company wants to control the entire chain, from extraction to recycling.
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