I think recycling thousands of EV battery packs that are no longer in use is a huge opportunity, and someone is doing something about it right now.
Instead of trying to hide some “secret sauce,” newly formed startup Redivivus recently did some online interviews in which they detail their approach.
You’ve probably seen some dumpsters at big box hardware stores (Home Depot, Lowes, Menards) for turning in old batteries from cordless tools that are no longer charging. However, the number of battery packs for EVs (which are approaching the end of their useful life) will soon flood and grow every year.
Metal recyclers have used a variety of methods to deal with this new waste stream with which they are unfamiliar. Redivivus solves this challenge by first freezing the batteries and then running them through a recycling grinder that shreds the metal. This was a wise decision because the batteries arrived at their R&D facility in a different state of charge. Measuring the state of charge and draining them into dummy loads would be time consuming, and by freezing them they are effectively inert and fireproof.
The grinding process produces fine chips. They bought a similar shredder that was so big it could swallow an entire Tesla battery pack from a wrecked car without breaking it down into smaller parts.
Above, a recycling grinder is breaking down a common 18650 format battery in a cordless tool. Once Redivivus shatters the frozen cells, the pieces are immediately dropped into a neutralizing solution to ensure they do not react chemically or thermally.
I’ve worked for over a decade with several companies (OHM, Shaw, IT) that clean up hazardous waste sites, mostly old landfills that don’t meet modern standards. This includes diverting waste to a newly constructed landfill and lining its bottom to prevent rainwater from seeping into the trash and chemicals from seeping into the water table.
Some of the work involved digging up old disused underground storage tanks (USTs), some of which had rusted over the years, causing gasoline and diesel to leak into the plume below the tank locations. We’d dig up the contaminated soil, spread it in a shallow bioreactor pit, cover it, and spray a special bacteria that feeds on hydrocarbons. Remediation is a fancy word for cleaning up hazardous waste, and using bacteria to do the heavy lifting is a cheap and safe method of “bioremediation.”
As futuristic as this sounds, there are actually bacteria that eat and gather the chemicals we want to extract from broken lithium battery chunks. Bioreactors have previously been used to separate copper and gold from recycled (shredded) electronics, and to extract hazardous metals (such as cadmium, arsenic, lead) from sewage sludge, so… The science is not new or dangerous.
So, what is the end product of the Redivivus process?this nickel The purity required for NCA/NCM lithium battery cathodes in Tesla car battery packs must be very high. However…the steel casings that make up the cylindrical 18650 and 2170 cell casings are nickel-plated, 99.9% pure nickel from Redivivus that is “clean enough” for such extensive industrial use. Nickel is one of the ingredients needed to make the stainless steel casing of the Tesla Cyber truck, so even nickel with a purity of “only” 99.9% has a huge market for every pound of nickel produced by Redivivus.
cobalt is another key factor. Thought to be a bottleneck material from the very beginning of the electric car boom, cobalt is a useful product in making the batteries Tesla uses for superior performance and long range. Cobalt is found in very few places, and mining it is a very “dirty” process that is harmful to the environment (some mining companies in Africa have also had humanitarian abuses), so there is still a lot of demand for cobalt in other parts of us. Life. Tesla vehicles built in China will use lithium iron phosphate chemistry exclusively, since lithium iron phosphate does not contain cobalt or nickel, so they can produce as many batteries as they want.
Although Redivivus also recycles lithium, steel, aluminum and copper, their proven ability to recover 92% of the cobalt and nickel from the lithium battery waste stream is what guarantees their success.
The CEO of the recycling company is Erica Guerrero, I had the pleasure of meeting him in person, and I was very impressed. However, the news about Redivivus caught my attention because their Chief Scientist, Luke Workman. I’ve known Luke for many years from his frequent posts on ElectricMotorcycleForum.com and Endless-sphere.com (covering all things electric vehicles, especially e-bikes). His screen name is “Live for Physics”, or LFP.
Luke’s resume is too long to list here, but he was a senior battery engineer for Zero motorcycles when they doubled their range by transitioning from cylindrical batteries to flat Farasis batteries. Z-Force Pack (click here).
Here is a written New Atlas 2016 interview with Luke (click here for part 1).
Here’s a 44 minute interview on YouTube erika and luke Just popped up on the web this week.
By Ron/spinningmagnets, March 2021