Volkswagen, JX to test recycling of electric vehicle batteries

The Yomiuri Shimbun

German automaker Volkswagen AG and leading Japanese nonferrous metal manufacturer JX Nippon Mining & Metals Corp. will start a trial project for recycling automotive lithium-ion batteries in Germany.

They aim to start the recycling business in Germany in 2030 as the spread of electric vehicles accelerates in Europe. They also plan to develop business in Japan.

Backed by the German government, VW established a joint venture with JX, a German university and other entities. JX, a unit of Eneos Holdings Inc., will cooperate on technology to extract rare metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel from automotive batteries.

In August last year, JX established a subsidiary in Germany to recycle batteries.

The global market for electric and hybrid vehicles is expected to expand fivefold from over 6 million units in 2020 to at least 30 million units in 2030. With the spread of EVs, the market for their batteries is expected to grow to about ¥53 trillion in 2050, more than 13 times the 2019 level.

Battery manufacturers plan to expand production, but competition to acquire rare metals is intensifying. There are also concerns that battery prices will skyrocket.

Countries are making efforts to promote recycling of batteries, and the European Union plans to mandate the use of recycled materials in batteries, starting in 2030.

Japan has also made the development of recycling technologies eligible for support from the Green Innovation Fund, which supports the development of decarbonization technologies.

Since efficient recycling technologies for automotive batteries have not been established, it is cheaper to buy new raw materials. Amid concerns about a shortage of mineral resources in the future, however, battery manufacturers are accelerating their competition to develop batteries with the involvement of national governments.

JX is hoping to take the lead in the field by partnering with VW, one of the world’s leading EV manufacturers.