Recycling and re-use of lithium-ion batteries provide market opportunities for logistics companies

25/03/2022 — minutes reading time
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The demand for electric and hybrid vehicles is increasing exponentially. This raises the issue of the enormous growth in lithium-ion batteries, which reach the end of their life after ten or twelve years. Recycling and re-use of these batteries present numerous challenges, which are rarely talked about. But they also offer many opportunities for Flemish companies: an entirely new value chain is emerging, in which they can play a role. Those challenges and opportunities were studied in the ‘Re2LiVe’ project, which was coordinated by VIL.

The volumes of heavy and voluminous vehicle batteries entering the recycling stream each year will create a fair bit of activity, including collection, possible re-use and dismantling. Logistics capacity will also have to significantly increase to deal with these sizeable streams of hazardous waste.

In the Re2LiVe project, VIL, Sirris, VITO and VUB are investigating how Flemish companies can respond to the opportunities in this growing market. Flux50, SIM and Agoria are acting as support partners. The project is also bringing together companies from different sectors throughout the value chain.

The project was divided into four segments:

  • Logistics (VIL)
  • Automation of the dismantling process (Sirris).
  • Optimisation of the recycling process (SIM / VITO)
  • Second life applications (Flux50 / VUB)

“The project will run until June 2022,” says Jan Merckx, Re2Live Project Leader for VIL. “The results will be published in September, but there are already a number of preliminary conclusions we can draw in relation to the logistics sector.”

Knowledge gap

“One of the first things we’ve established is that there’s a huge gap in knowledge. The transport of used batteries by lorry is subject to the ADR regulations, while transport by inland shipping is covered by the RID regulations. In practice, however, there is little available knowledge about the organisation and hazards of such transport, particularly if the batteries are damaged. There are potential opportunities around organising specific training.”

New packaging

“Another thing we’ve discovered is that the logistics of used batteries require the right packaging to be available. A new market is being created for pooling companies of load carriers, such as crates and bins. They’ll have to invest in knowledge, development and production of the right packaging materials. This will be necessary not only for the ‘reverse’ logistics of the batteries, but also for the transport of scrap and other leftover materials.”

Material passports

“A third aspect is having information about the batteries to enable them to be recycled. From 2026, every electric vehicle will have to have a ‘material passport’ specifying the status and composition of the battery. Platforms will have to be developed to coordinate the logistics of these certificates. Companies need to get started now to make sure these platforms are available in time.”

Second life

It isn’t only in the area of dismantling and recycling that opportunities are starting to emerge. Opportunities are also opening up in the area of re-use, not least for the logistics sector. “A battery that is no longer able to guarantee a certain operating range for a car or truck can be re-used as a storage system, for example to store electricity from solar panels or to act as a backup. This would allow logistics companies with a solar roof to use the generated energy at night. The batteries could also be used for other mobile applications, such as forklift trucks.” Jan Merckx believes re-use offers significant market opportunities for Flemish companies.

Let’s get started!

New markets are opening up for many companies. This includes logistics companies and organisations operating in the waste and recycling sector, road and rail transport, inland shipping and ports, and companies operating in the vehicle distribution, servicing and recycling sectors or involved in the export of used vehicles and parts.

Are you interested in finding out whether the logistics of recycling and re-use of batteries could offer market potential to your company? Or how you can collaborate with other companies to develop commercial initiatives in this new ecosystem? Contact Jan Merckx, Re2Live Project Leader for VIL: jan.merckx@vil.be