ReLieVe: an innovative process for recycling lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles

With the tremendous growth in the electric vehicle market, recycling used batteries represents a major challenge for the industry. Eramet has developed a recycling process to recover the strategic metals contained in the battery and has joined forces with key partners to cover the entire value chain.

ReLieVe (which stands for Recycling of Li-ion batteries for Electric Vehicles) is a collaborative research and innovation project whose goal is to develop a closed-loop process for recycling lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. The goal is also to develop an integrated industrial sector for the recycling of production waste from gigafactories and end-of-life automotive batteries, thereby helping to secure metal supplies for the energy transition in Europe.

The project started in 2018 at lab scale and was awarded a grant of nearly €3M in 2020 from EIT RawMaterials, a European Union agency, to develop the process at pilot scale. For two years, a consortium of four partners spread across the entire battery value chain conducted several test campaigns to recover certain strategic components—nickel, cobalt, lithium and manganese—with very high levels of yield and purity, allowing them to be reintroduced in the production of new batteries.

On the strength of these successes, the ReLieVe project entered the scale-up phase in 2022. The project was divided into two parts: an upstream part, carried out in partnership with Suez, which involved dismantling the batteries and crushing and separating the components; and a downstream part, a metal refining process developed by Eramet itself.

The project was selected by the European Commission's Innovation Fund in mid-2022 and received a grant of nearly 70 million euros. Thanks to this support and the results achieved, the Group will be able to continue working on the development of an industrial recycling solution adapted to the market, thereby helping to secure the metal supplies needed to manufacture electric batteries in Europe.

The Group has already begun construction of a pre-industrial demonstrator at its research and innovation center in Trappes, which is scheduled to start production in summer 2023. Its objectives will be to optimize the efficiency of the recycling process, take into account the requirements of future customers, and participate in the circular economy.

The challenge: closed-loop recycling

ReLieVe is developing a large-scale version of an innovative, "closed-loop" process for recycling lithium-ion batteries. In contrast to more conventional processes, this one will recycle metals while retaining their physical and chemical qualities, so that they may be re-used in the design of a new lithium-ion battery cathode.

From an environmental perspective, the challenge is two-fold: first, to develop a process that has the smallest possible environmental impact—and carbon impact, in particular—and second, to maximize the number of lithium-ion components that can be recycled.

Discover the ReLieVe recycling process in video:

Co-funded by the European UnionFunded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.