Audi and Umicore have successfully completed the test phase of their strategic research cooperation. The result is that more than 90 of the cobalt and nickel in the high-voltage batteries of the Audi e-tron can be recovered. The car manufacturer and the materials technology and recycling expert are therefore now entering the next phase. As of January, the partners will cooperate on a closed-loop for cobalt and nickel. The recovered materials will be used in new battery cells.
The material cycle will be closed with the renewed use of cobalt and nickel. The Umicore experts receive used Audi e-tron cell modules from Audi and extract the cobalt and nickel from them – initially. The battery modules still come from the development vehicles. Umicore then processes the recycled material into precursor and cathode material from which new battery cells can be produced.
“A closed-loop for battery raw materials is a big leap technologically. We save precious resources and reduce CO2emissions. In this way we come significantly closer to our goal of a sustainable supply chain and reach a milestone on the road to achieving an overall carbon-neutral balance by 2050,” says Dr. Bernd Martens, member of the board of management for Procurement and IT at Audi. “It is our aim to think about sustainability holistically. This includes dealing with the remaining ‘end of life’ as well as resource-saving development of our products.”
Furthermore, Marc Grynberg, CEO of Umicore added: “Umicore is committed to enabling the transition to electrified mobility. Innovative technologies, responsible sourcing and closing the materials loop will lead the drive towards clean mobility. This project with Audi is at the forefront of the development of a sustainable value chain for electrified transport.”
However, the cells with recycled material are not used directly in new cars. “The first thing we want to do with the project is to master the process,” explains an Audi spokeswoman when asked. “In the next step, series production is conceivable.”
The two companies announced the strategic cooperation and the closed-loop project in October 2018. At the time, there was still talk of a targeted recycling rate of 95 percent, but the current press release still mentions “more than 90 percent. However, the project was defined based on the analysis of the cells from the A3 e-tron PHEV, but other cells were then used with the cells from the e-tron quattro development vehicles.