Mercedes opens new battery recycling facility in Germany

Mercedes has paved the way for a new battery recycling facility in Germany, focusing on “closing the loop” and enabling the automaker to source battery materials sustainably.

Two of the biggest challenges in the electric vehicle industry are the price of battery materials and what happens to batteries when they reach the end of their life. Yet more and more manufacturers are discovering that both of these problems can be helped to solve themselves through the use of battery recycling. In a bid to source materials more sustainably and at lower cost, Mercedes has inaugurated its first battery recycling facility which will slowly grow to help meet the automaker’s demand for materials.

Mercedes’ new plant in Kuppenheim, Germany aims to achieve a remarkable 96% recovery rate for four key materials; lithium, cobalt, nickel and possibly graphite. It will have an annual recycling capacity of 2,500 tonnes and aims to start processing by the end of this year.

“This foundation symbolizes the decisive step towards closing the materials cycle for Mercedes-Benz batteries,” says Jörg Burzer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz. “With a recycling rate of over 96%, a ‘mine of tomorrow’ is being created here in Kuppenheim. The innovative technological approach allows us to integrate the valuable raw materials into the new Mercedes-EQ vehicles. We are constantly developing our expertise in the battery value chain and taking an important step in our strategy towards “electricity only”.

Mercedes also says the new facility will be 100% carbon neutral as part of the German automaker’s ongoing efforts to decarbonize its production facilities in the coming years. This is achieved through a mix of solar energy installed on site and green energy purchased from the grid.

German regulators were quick to point out that the new facility will also be a vital part of the country’s efforts to limit reliance on imports of rare earths, which have been hit particularly hard on the European continent due to the COVID pandemic, COVID restrictions in China and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

“This is of particular importance given the limited availability of important and highly sought-after raw materials such as lithium, cobalt or nickel,” said Thekla Walker, Minister for the Environment, Climate Protection and Sector. energy from Baden-Württemberg. “Crises such as the corona pandemic or the brutal Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have clearly demonstrated our dependence on supply chains and primary raw materials. Increased recycling can help reduce this dependence on critical raw materials and thus strengthen the resilience of the economy.

Mercedes joins Tesla, General Motors and many others, establishing battery recycling capabilities around the world. Tesla has already announced that it will make recycled materials more of its production with the help of Redwood materials. General Motors has worked closely with Lithion to establish battery recycling as part of its planned introduction of many electric vehicles in the near future. At the same time, national governments are also encouraging many of these projects to help reduce waste that could become a problem in a fully electrified future.

Late last month, the US Department of Energy provided one of its first-ever lithium battery recycling loans to an upstate New York battery recycler, LiCycle. And with the growing need for this infrastructure, the agency should continue to invest in the future.

As Mercedes rapidly increases the number of electric vehicles it sells globally over the next few years, battery recycling plants like this one will be critical to its growth and success. Hopefully, this can serve as an example for other manufacturers in the future, helping to make electric vehicles increasingly sustainable.

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