The Materials Processing Institute has been awarded funding by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to develop techniques to recover lithium and graphite from used electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
With the government announcing a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030, it is estimated there will be a million electric vehicles on the UK’s roads within the next four years.
However, any rapid increase in ownership presents supply and sustainability challenges – in particular, how to meet demand for lithium, graphite, cobalt, and other critical materials used to manufacture EV batteries.
An ability to recycle lithium and graphite currently sourced from Latin America, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Australia and China – would secure availability, limit the environmental impact of extracting finite raw materials and reduce production costs, making EV’s more affordable.
Whilst much of the battery can already be recycled, it remains difficult to access and reuse the battery cell and its critical metals due to the volatility of the electrolyte.
As part of the bid to Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, the Institute presented the project as an opportunity to apply its technical and process expertise in extracting valuable materials produced as a by-product of the steelmaking process.