Study: Traction battery recycling is becoming profitable

(© phonlamaiphoto –

(© phonlamaiphoto –

A joint study (only available in German) by RWTH Aachen University and strategy consultants PwC has analyzed the potential of recycling traction batteries. The results give hope for a profitable future. SVOLT is also working intensively on battery recycling.

2024/03/15 - Batteries that are no longer powerful enough for use in cars are by no means worthless. As a rule, they still have 70 to 80 percent of their original capacity after several thousand charging cycles (depending on the battery type and cell chemistry). In a joint study, the Chair “Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components” (PEM) at RWTH Aachen University and strategy consultants PwC have concluded that the recycling of old traction batteries will become profitable before 2035. This forecast is based on an expected increase in demand for used battery recycling centers.

The recycling market is expected to process around 570,000 tons of battery material annually from 2030, requiring investments of more than 2.2 billion euros per year. Large recycling centers will dominate in the future due to the high investment costs.

South Korea and China already introduced battery recycling guidelines in 2013 and are considered pioneers in this field. In August 2023, the European Union issued new legal framework conditions for the recycling of batteries in Europe. This EU directive includes a battery recycling rate of 90 percent instead of 50 percent and stipulates a minimum proportion of recycled raw materials in new batteries from 2031 – six percent for nickel, six percent for lithium and 16 percent for cobalt.

The recently published study predicts that by 2035, recycled materials could cover up to 30 percent of the demand for lithium, nickel and cobalt in battery cell production. This proportion could even double by 2040. From 2036 onwards, 15 percent for nickel, 12 percent for lithium and 26 percent for cobalt are mandatory. However, a completely closed battery market is unlikely to emerge in the next 20 years.

Due to the predicted high volume of materials and low recycling costs, battery recycling is expected to be a profitable and sustainable business in Europe before 2035. This could be a promising development for the battery industry.

Battery manufacturer SVOLT is currently also working on the development of a comprehensive recycling concept with the intention of creating a closed material cycle. “Our approach includes products that have actually reached the end of their product life cycle and can no longer be used in energy storage solutions, as well as the waste generated during the production process,” says Dr. Dominik Lembke, Director Product Development at SVOLT. The raw materials from the old battery can be recovered in special processes so that these recycled metals can be used as raw materials for new battery production. SVOLT cooperates with external partners in the development of sustainable concepts and solutions for battery recycling. A partnership with BASF has already been announced. Sustainability and minimizing the carbon footprint are key priorities for SVOLT.