Sure, electric vehicles are green in terms of that whole zero tail-pipe emissions thing, especially so if you have the ability to provide the juice via some sort of renewable energy. But what about that big, hulking battery pack in the trunk, and all those heavy metals set to enter the landfill the moment it reaches the end of its natural life?
Tesla Motors is taking the bull by the horns on this one by teaming up with Umicore’s UHT facility in Belgium to recycle its old batteries. Umicore is a base materials technology company that plans to use Tesla’s expended pack material to produce an alloy it can further refine into cobalt, nickel and other valuable metals.
Of particular interest to the company is cobalt, which it plans to use in creating high grade lithium cobalt oxide, which will then be resold to battery manufacturers, completing the ”cradle-to-cradle” life-cycle process. Less useful as a by-product is the clean inertized slag containing calcium oxides and lithium produced during the process, but Umicore has found a market for these materials, as well, in the form of special grades of concrete.
Umicore’s battery recycling process is said to save a minimum of 70 percent on CO2 emissions involved in creating lithium-ion batteries from scratch, substantially reducing the carbon footprint of electric vehicle battery manufacturing.