August 23, 2023: The EU could see lithium ion battery recycling become a profitable business before 2035 but the sector will need greater investment to get there, says a new study released on August 16.
More than €2 billion ($2.1 billion) in investments into the EU recycling market for lithium batteries are forecast by 2030, according to the study by the strategy consulting business unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Germany’s RWTH Aachen University.
Handling further market growth through to 2035 will require additional investments of €7 billion, but EU recycling could then become viable and sustainable with a projected revenue of around €8 billion and a potential fall in battery costs.
However, while recycled material can contribute up to 60% of battery requirements in 2040, a completely closed loop “will not be possible until well beyond then”.
Regulatory changes in the EU, such as those included in the new Batteries Regulation, will help drive recycling, the study says.
Meanwhile higher electrification rates and the ramp-up of EU cell production to around 900GWh in 2030 could boost the recycling market to around 6,000 kilotonnes of end-of-life batteries in 2040.
In 2035, recycled material may account for up to 30% of Li, Ni, and Co demand for battery cell production.
By 2040, battery recycling in Europe is predicted to rise 10-fold compared to 2030, which the study says will initially be driven by gigafactory scrap.
“With more recyclate available at competitive cost, a positive impact on battery prices can be expected through reducing CAM price by up to 20%, further spurring electrification and recycling market uptake.”
A report published last year by Belgium’s KU Leuven research university warned the EU could face problems around 2030 from global supply shortages for five metals — especially lithium, cobalt, nickel, rare earths, and copper.
Meanwhile a separate European study published in April 2022 noted that new lead batteries, which are all recycled when collected in Europe, typically include up to 80% recycled content. The study also said the lead battery industry as a whole was worth an estimated €15 billion ($16.2 billion) of value added or gross domestic product a year to the European economy.
Photo: EU gigafactory projects include Northolt’s Ett plant in Sweden