Batteries: Tesla increases its environmental focus

In mid-April, Tesla released its first Impact Report, which measures the effects of their products and operations on the environment and communities. It also plans to begin operations at a battery recycling facility, located at its Nevada Gigafactory, which will process both spent batteries used in Tesla vehicles and those from Tesla’s own research and development. Raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, aluminium, copper and steel will be recovered from the batteries in a closed-loop system that optimises the materials for new battery production.

Roskill view

Tesla has started to receive and recycle several battery packs used for R&D, manufacturing, quality control and service operations, and is working with third-party battery recyclers around the world to process all used batteries and recover valuable battery metals.

Two months earlier, Volkswagen announced its plans to build a pilot plant for recycling EV battery materials in Salzgitter; the plant will begin operations in 2020 with initial capacity of 1.2ktpy. The long-term target of the project is to recycle 97% of all battery raw materials. In the same month, the US Department of Energy also launched the country’s first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D centre.

The closed-loop system has also been utilised in other recycling projects, such as the BMW-Umicore-Northvolt joint project announced in October 2018. It is hoped that closed-loop recycling will reduce the reliance of battery producers on external sources of battery materials. On-going joint ventures and technology development will help stimulate safe and profitable recycling for the lithium-ion battery industry.

On 22 April, Tesla’s Elon Musk also announced further environmentally-friendly plans with the launch of robo-taxis from 2020. Tesla also aims to build fully self-driving vehicles without steering wheels or pedals within the next two years.

Roskill’s NEW Lithium-ion Batteries: Outlook to 2028 report was published in April 2019. Click here to download the brochure and sample pages, or to access further information.