THE AIM OF THE RELIB PROJECT IS TO ESTABLISH THE TECHNOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC AND LEGAL INFRASTRUCTURE REQUIRED TO OPTIMISE THE EFFICIENCY OF MATERIAL MANAGEMENT FROM LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES UTILISED IN THE AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR

BACKGROUND

In 2017 the Transportation sector was the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Despite improvements in fuel efficiency emissions there have been no significant reductions from this sector since 1990 (see section on the UK’s Climate Change Commitments).

There must be major reductions in emissions from the Transport sector if the UK Government is to meet its legal commitment to reduce UK GHG emissions by 80% by 2050.
To achieve this there must be a rapid transition from vehicles powered by fossil fuels to ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

At present the main technology being utilised for hybrid and full electric vehicles is based on the use of lithium-ion battery systems.

RELIB PROJECT

The overall aim is to understand the conditions required to ensure the sustainable management of lithium-ion batteries when they reach the end of their useful life in electric vehicles. This will enhance the overall efficiency of the supply chain and ensure that the UK has the facilities required for safe, economic and environmentally sound management of the materials contained in lithium-ion batteries.

In order to do this the following stages must be optimised: –

  • Evaluation of the condition of EV battery packs
  • Efficient and Safe systems for repair, reconditioning and re-use of battery packs and components
  • Systems for recovering the components and materials from batteries when they can no longer be used in the vehicle or in other energy storage applications.

Since many of the components in batteries are made from valuable elements with special properties and which should not be disposed of as waste it makes sense to explore how these could be recovered from end-of-life batteries to develop a system for re-circulating this material for new battery production. This would reduce the demand for imported primary materials and would also enhance the security of supply and material efficiency.

Improve the EU-wide recycling chain and add to a secure supply of raw materials through the recovery of valuable materials from waste streams.

The infrastructure for recycling lithium-ion batteries from large volumes of EVs has not been developed. The number of end-of-life EVs is currently low but this will increase as the volume of EV sales continues to rise so now is the time to establish the optimum systems for the management of the future volumes.

In order to do this the ReLiB project team will develop:

  • A review of the regulatory framework for lithium-ion battery management in the UK and an analysis of international regulations, policies and laws that would be relevant and beneficial
  • Systems for used battery assessment to determine optimum utilisation
  • Fully autonomous gateway testing and robotic sorting
  • An assessment of the relative engineering and economic gains for various second life applications and determination of when the useful life has expired and the materials should be recycled
  • The development of recycling technologies to segregate and purify the different materials into a useful form for re-use in batteries or other applications
  • The use of life cycle analysis and techno-economic assessment of each recycling route to identify optimum management systems
  • Evaluations of new business models to promote the collection and sorting of lithium-ion batteries

In order to achieve these goals the ReLiB team will:

  • Carry out full characterization of active materials from cells near, and at, end-of-life and recycled materials recovered from used batteries, with respect to chemical composition (elemental concentration, mineralogy and distribution), particle size and morphology. Effective processes for recovering materials from end-of-life batteries for re-use, in the production of new batteries or other applications would create new jobs and reduce the UK’s dependence on imported materials.
  • Introduce robotics and AI into the waste and recycling sector, enhancing safety, reducing operator exposure to hazardous environments, boosting productivity, stabilising the existing jobs market.
  • Review current legislation, policy and regulations and work with industry and policy makers to devise a system that will promote the sustainable management of EV batteries in the UK.
The ReLiB project is designed to support the delivery of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, its Climate Change Commitment and Waste Strategy details of which can be found in the links below:

Our waste our resources: a strategy for England

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The Road to Zero

Next steps towards cleaner road transport and delivering our Industrial Strategy

Department of Transport | July 2018

Our mission is to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles, and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040. As set out in the NO2 plan, we will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. By then, we expect the majority of new cars and vans sold to be 100% zero emission and all new cars and vans to have signi cant zero emission capability. By 2050 we want almost every car and van to be zero emission.
We want to see at least 50%, and as many as 70%, of new car sales and up to 40% of new van sales being ultra low emission by 2030.
We expect this transition to be industry and consumer led, supported in the coming years by the measures set out in this strategy. We will review progress towards our ambitions by 2025. Against a rapidly evolving international context, we will seek to maintain the UK’s leadership position and meet our ambitions, and will consider what interventions are required if not enough progress is being made.
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Electric Vehicles – Driving the Transition | October 16th 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Second life battery applications, EV end of life disposal and battery recycling are nascent areas that could offer significant industrial opportunities.
We recommend that the Government explores the potential value of these to the UK and take a lead in developing those that are promising, before other countries gain a competitive edge.
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