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RBC, Argonne National Laboratory to Advance Battery Recycling

Getty Images BigBattery Project Aims to Tackle E-waste Challenge
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019; best practices will be available for battery manufacturers, OEMs and recyclers.

The Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC) has entered a joint research project with Argonne National Laboratory to further advance battery innovation and ensure that the batteries of tomorrow are designed for maximum recyclability.

Argonne National Laboratory, operated by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center focused on solving domestic energy and environmental challenges through innovative science and technology solutions. RBC is a coalition of battery manufacturers and recyclers, car and vehicle makers, fleet owners, service providers and after-market retailers with a common interest in the responsible management of batteries.

The RBC-funded partnership is the first industry-sponsored project with the Argonne-led ReCell Center, a lithium-ion battery research and development initiative launched by DOE in early 2019 that also includes the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

“By modeling the full lifecycle of a battery in advance, a manufacturer has the opportunity to compare and contrast different battery chemistries ‘in the lab,’ which reduces risks and production costs and allows for the design of batteries that are environmentally responsible, from initial materials selection through end of life,” said RBC Executive Director Steve Christensen in a statement. “Between the globally renowned scientists and top-of-the-line facilities available at Argonne, we are confident that our investment will lead to tangible, real-world solutions benefiting industry and consumers.”

“As batteries play an ever-larger role in meeting society’s daily energy needs, in applications ranging from electric vehicles to powering homes to industrial-scale energy storage, evaluating and understanding lifecycle impacts is increasingly important,” said Jeff Spangenberger, director of the ReCell Center, who leads the research team at Argonne, in a statement. 

“Using Argonne’s closed loop recycling model, known as EverBatt, we will be able to generate critical information to help battery manufacturers design batteries with recycling in mind,” added Spangenberger. “Understanding the lifecycle of a technology, such as advanced batteries, also supports the development of a circular economy, where all the components of a product are recovered and recycled at end of life.”

Developing a circular economy approach is especially important for advanced battery technologies, which currently rely on metals that are in limited supply or produced in unstable regions. Over the next 20 years, the projected global spent battery volume from electric vehicles alone will increase to more than 7 million metric tons annually, with more than 2 million metric tons produced in the United States alone.

The RBC-Argonne project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. RBC will work closely with Argonne to provide real-world manufacturing process input and help fill in any data gaps that may exist. Recycling best practices will be made available to battery manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers and recyclers following a real-world manufacturing process analysis. 

RBC and its members are committed to the responsible reuse, recycling and management of energy storage or batteries used in the transportation, industrial or stationary sectors, inspiring the next generation of energy storage technologies.

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