Electric cars use precious rare-earth metals such as cobalt in the construction of their batteries and Mercedes is now constructing a plant to help recover some of these resources to make EVs more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
Scheduled to begin in 2023, the Mercedes recycling scheme will initially be a pilot program with an annual capacity of 2,500 tonnes. However, Mercedes has said a second stage is planned where recovered materials will then be used to produce up to 50,000 battery modules for new Mercedes EQ vehicles. The recovery rate for battery material at the plant is expected to be above 96 per cent.
Jörg Burzer, the man in charge of Production and Supply Chain Management Division for Mercedes, said in regards to the new plant, “Mercedes-Benz is pursuing a clear goal with a view to conserving resources: a maximum circular economy for all raw materials used. Sustainable battery recycling is a key factor in this – worldwide”.
Battery recycling has become a big topic in the electric car industry, with questions over whether the cobalt found in EV batteries is ethically-sourced, given that the majority comes from mines in the DR Congo. Even Mercedes has admitted “the [artisanal mining] situation needs to improve”. Although the German firm stressed it works with responsible sourcing firm RCS Global in its supply chain.
With most European car companies becoming fully-electric by 2030, it’s likely that more recycling plants like this will be needed to supply the increasing demand for EV batteries.