Lithium batteries, recycling helps reduce the cost of electric cars

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USA car companies fund research to develop a recycling system that helps both the environment and the economy

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium, an organization that includes Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has awarded a $2.2 million contract to a research team working on a process for recycling lithium-ion batteries. The research also aims at the production of new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle battery cells using the recovered cathode material.

The project will have a duration of two years and will be led by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Lab studies allowed the researchers to recycle up to 80% of the cathode materials from unsorted batteries (the process does not require an kind of sorting).

The process is based on the shredding of the batteries: the steel, aluminum, iron, copper, and plastics are recovered and recycled; the cathode materials are recovered and then used to synthesize new cathodes.

“Batteries are among the costliest components of electric and hybrid vehicles”, explain researchers. The good news is that the research results show that this recycling process can cut the cost of cathode materials for vehicle batteries by more than 30%.

“If we can reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries – add the researchers – while also recovering and reusing large amounts of materials that are currently being thrown away, we can offer a value-driven path towards improved industry sustainability”.

50% of the research contract is funded by the US Department Of Energy, while the rest is funded by the WPI and by battery producers.

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