Volkswagen officially started up the Group’s first facility for recycling high-voltage vehicle batteries at its site in Salzgitter, Germany. The aim is the industrialized recovery of valuable raw materials such as lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt in a closed loop, as well as aluminum, copper and plastic, with a recycling rate of more than 90 percent in the long term.
In Salzgitter, only batteries that cannot be used elsewhere are recycled. This is because an analysis is first carried out to determine whether a battery is still powerful enough to be given a second life in mobile energy storage systems such as the flexible rapid charging station or the mobile charging robot. Larger quantities of battery returns are not expected until the end of the 2020s at the earliest. The plant is therefore initially designed to recycle up to 3600 battery systems per year in pilot operation. This corresponds to around 1500 metric tons.
The recycling process does not involve energy-intensive melting in a blast furnace. The used batteries delivered are deep-discharged and dismantled. The individual parts are then ground into granules in a shredder, which are then dried. In addition to aluminum, copper and plastics, the valuable “black powder” is recovered, which contains the important battery raw materials lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt, as well as graphite. The individual materials are then separated and processed by specialized partners.
CO2 savings are valued at around 1.3 metric tons for a new 62 kWh battery if it is produced with green electricity and the cathodes alone are made from recycled material.