Mercedes-Benz to establish pilot lithium-ion battery recycling plan

Published on March 12, 2022

The construction of the plant, which will be located in Kuppenheim in southern Germany, will be in two stages. Initially, a plant for mechanical dismantling will be constructed by 2023. As a second step – subject to promising discussions with the public sector – the facilities for hydrometallurgical processing of the battery materials are to go into operation. This means that in the future, Kuppenheim could cover all the stages from dismantling to module level, shredding and drying and subsequent processing of battery-grade material flows.

The pilot plant is expected to have an annual capacity of 2,500 tonnes. The recovered materials will be fed back into the recycling loop to produce more than 50,000 battery modules for new Mercedes-EQ models. Based on the findings of the pilot plant, production volumes could be scaled up in the medium to long term.

The project is intended to set standards in terms of battery recycling from an ecological point of view: the process design of the patented hydrometallurgy with recovery rates of more than 96 percent is expected to allow a holistic circular economy of battery materials.

Mercedes-Benz is investing a double-digit million euro amount in research and development, as well as in the construction of the CO2-neutral pilot plant. The project may receive funding under the Battery Innovation Support Program of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection.

In the future, the new pilot plant will map the entire process chain of battery recycling: from the development of logistics concepts and the sustainable recycling of valuable raw materials to the reintegration of recyclate into the production of new batteries. The new recycling plant is based on an innovative mechanical/hydrometallurgical process, which completely dispenses with energy-intensive and material-consuming pyrometallurgical process steps. The direct integration of hydrometallurgy into the overall concept of a recycling plant is a first in Europe, and acts as a key element in the realization of sustainable battery recycling in the sense of a true circular economy.

Michael Brecht, Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Mercedes-Benz Group AG: “The pilot factory at the Kuppenheim location marks the Mercedes-Benz Group’s entry into the important field of battery recycling, and will make the company more independent of raw material supplies in the future. At the same time, we are gathering important know-how on the subject of the circular economy and creating new, sustainable jobs that can be further expanded if operations are successful. Sustainability also includes human rights. In this respect, we as the General Works Council, together with the company management, adopted the Declaration of Principles for Social Responsibility and Human Rights last year as a central foundation for our daily actions.”

Source: Keith Bradley