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CATL stepping up battery materials recycling

Staff reporter, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

Galloping prices of power battery materials are heaping heavy cost pressures on both EV and battery makers, fueling a new wave of materials recycling development in China, with even top battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) also joining the bandwagon, according to industry sources.

Statistics released by Shanghai Ganglian E-Commerce show the average quote for cathode material lithium carbonate hit a high of CNY493,000 (US$71,449) per tonne as of August 29, more than nine times the figure of CNY53,000 registered in early 2021. The prices are expected to rise further in the second half of the year, due to strong peak-season demand as well as tight supply of lithium salt in Sichuan province amid power restrictions there, the sources said.

In response to the ever-rising materials costs, the entire battery supply chain is aggressively strengthening battery recycling deployments. CATL chairman Robin Zeng has called for related authorities to further improve battery materials recycling policies, stressing that the vast majority of battery materials can be recycled.

CATL has seen its recovery rates for nickel, cobalt and manganese hit a high of 99.3%, and that for lithium is also over 90%. In the first quarter of 2022, a total of 21,300 tonnes of waste batteries were recycled and used by the company to manufacture 18,000 tonnes of battery precursors, according to company statistics. It is expected that after 2035 CATL will be able to meet a large portion of demand by recycling materials from decommissioned batteries.

Many other Chinese companies are also keen on tapping battery recycling business opportunities. Miracle Automation has recently signed a pact with Harson Service to jointly set up a battery recycling system. Miracle's battery recycling business shot up 114.39% on year to CNY816 million in the first half of 2022, while Harson has also entered strategic cooperation with over 20 EV makers including XPeng, NIO and Arcfox, as well as many battery makers such as CATL, Farasis Energy and Tianjin EV Energies, significantly deepening its presence in the battery recycling segment.

BYD's wholly owned subsidiary Taizhou FinDreams Battery is also stepping up its waste battery recycling operations, in addition to production and sales of batteries as well as R&D on new materials and technologies.

BMW has also teamed up with Huayou Resource Regeneration Technology to realize closed-loop management of battery raw materials. The German automaker has said that the purpose of recycling batteries is to extract nickel, cobalt, lithium and other raw materials from disassembled batteries, and the materials will be delivered to battery suppliers to produce new batteries for use by BMM vehicles.

Tinci Materials is planning to recycle 100,000 tonnes of lithium iron batteries; Svolt Energy Technology and Gangfeng Lithium are also jointly developing lithium resources and battery recycling operations; GE has entered cooperation with over 1,000 players in EV and battery production and sales, looking to recycle 30,000 tonnes of waste batteries collected from over 200 recycling points.

Wood Mackenzie statistics indicate that the supply of lithium compounds made from recycled materials will grow to 26,000 tonnes in 2022 from 18,000 in 2021. The figure is estimated to top 200,000 tonnes by 2030, accounting for 12% of the global lithium supply.

China's first batch of new energy vehicles (NEVs) has ushered in a wave of retirement. Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security show that the number of NEVs amounted to 10.01 million units as of the end of June 2022, while GGII tallies also show that the amount of lithium batteries facing theoretical decommission was estimated at 512,000 tonnes by 2021, when China recycled 299,000 tonnes of used lithium batteries.

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