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Northvolt moves into EV battery recycling with Revolt initiative

London — As Europe transitions to a low carbon society, battery cell producer Northvolt plans to make its environmental footprint as minimal as possible integrating recycling into its production process, the company said Friday.

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This year has seen attention turn to how Europe will succeed in its move toward electrification, in a bid to tackle climate change and adhere to strict government policy.

The main sticking point is how battery cell makers and car companies will source raw materials, namely lithium,in order to lower the CO2 footprint caused by shipping raw materials thousands of miles.

Northvolt said Friday it was making "swift progress" with its blueprint for sustainable battery manufacturing and positioned to deliver lithium-ion cells to European markets with a minimal environmental footprint. The next stepin this strategy will come in the form of its Revolt initiative -- a program of devoted to recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

"It is clear that recycling batteries at end-of-life is critical to delivering a comprehensive model for sustainable lithium-ion batteries. With this program Northvolt will be able to recover valuable materials from cells and return them to manufacturing flows. Recycling will reduce the need for mining raw materials, improve security of supply and lower the environmental footprint of Northvolt cells by reducing mining-related emissions," Peter Carlsson, Northvolt CEO, said.

Northvolt will establish a pilot recycling plant in Vasteras, Sweden, adjacent to the Northvolt Labs manufacturing plant.

The pilot plant is anticipated to be online in 2020 and will serve as a platform for developing and validating the Northvolt recyclingprocess. The facility will target an initial recycling capacity of 100 mt/year, handling nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and nickel, cobalt, aluminum oxide (NCA) lithium-ion chemistries.

Further out a full-scale recycling plant is planned, with Northvolt targeting 50% of material in new cells being produced from recycled materials by 2030.

"This target will be secured through a phased build-up in capacity, beginning with a first block to be operational in 2022 with capability to recycle approximately 25,000 mt of battery cells per year," the company said in a statement.

Emma Nehrenheim chief environmental officer said: "Revolt opens up a very exciting chapter for Northvolt and will demonstrate how the environmental benefits of batteries can be pushed even further than we currently see with their use to replace fossil-fuels. For the customers, this also means we are able to offer assurance and services forsustainable handling of end-of-life batteries they are bound to by European law."

According to Northolt, Europe currently has battery recycling capacity of around 33,000 mt/per year. "However, existing capacity is neither well-suited to effectively recover valuable metals found in lithium-ion batteries, or ofsufficient capacity to handle the volumes of batteries which will be placed on the market as electrification ramps-up. Already in 2019, some 75,000 mt of batteries will reach end-of-life."

Northvolt was founded in 2016 and its industrial partners and customers include ABB, BMW Group, Scania, Siemens, Vattenfall, Vestas and Volkswagen, the company said.

Earlier this month the European Commission approved Eur3.2 billion ($3.5 billion) of funding aimed at growing EV battery production across the Continent.

The project is backed by seven countries -- Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden -- and will support research and innovation in the "European priority area of batteries."

The initiative, estimated to conclude around 2031, is expected to draw out an additional Eur5 billion in private investment, the EC said.

-- Ben Kilbey, ben.kilbey@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.loades-carter@spglobal.com