Tesla: We are close to 'closed loop' battery recycling with reusable alloys, slag | The American Ceramic Society Skip to content

Tesla: We are close to ‘closed loop’ battery recycling with reusable alloys, slag

To make sure their car parts are disposed off in the most eco-friendly manner possible, Tesla has launched a new recycling strategy for its batteries, which are designed to last 7 to 10 years, or about 100,000 miles under normal use.

According to a company press release, Tesla Motors has teamed up with Belgium’s Umicore to establish a Li-ion battery recycling program in Europe. Umicore will recycle Tesla’s dead battery pack to produce an alloy that will be further refined into cobalt, nickel and other metals. Umicore plans to transform the cobalt into high-grade lithium cobalt oxide product, which can be resold to battery manufacturers (the company already supplies battery makers with LCO).

The company also acknowledges that some by-products will remain, but says it intends to turn this into a slag containing calcium oxides and lithium that can go into special grade concretes.

Tesla says the recycling program will save about 70 percent of CO2 emissions at the recovery stage.

“While we work to help lessen global dependence on petroleum-based transportation and drive down the cost of electric vehicles, we are also taking the lead in developing a closed loop battery recycling system,” Tesla’s director of energy storage systems Kurt Kelty wrote on a company blog.

Kelty writes:

“The technology to enable this is available today – and it’s profitable!  We already reuse cobalt in the batteries. The overall closed loop recycling system becomes possible, and much more efficient, once the quantities rise to a level to justify the investment for recycling of the other components – especially the plastic.

. . .

“The only other emissions from the recycling process are CO2, water vapor and dust. The dust makes up about 1 percent of the total output, and goes to protected landfill. In an effort to reuse every possible part of the process, the Umicore facility even sells the electricity created from an on-site combined natural gas generation plant to the copper mine next door, which uses the heat in its smelters.”

These seems to imply that Umicore is doing much better than Tesla’s North American recycler, Kinsbursky Brothers (Toxco Inc.), which Kelty says recycles about 60 percent of the battery pack.