The case for recycling: Overview and challenges in the material supply chain for automotive li-ion batteries

Elsevier, Sustainable Materials and Technologies, Volume 19, 2019, e00087, ISSN 2214-9937
Ahmad Mayyas, Darlene Steward, Margaret Mann

Lithium ion batteries (LIB) continue to gain market share in response to the increasing demand for electric vehicles, consumer electronics, and energy storage. The increased demand for LIB has highlighted potential problems in the supply chain of raw materials needed for their manufacture. Some critical metals used in LIB, namely lithium, cobalt, and graphite are scarce, are not currently mined in large quantities, or are mined in only a few countries whose trade policies could limit availability and impact prices. The environmental and social impacts of mining these materials have also drawn attention as production ramps up to meet the increased demand. Closed-loop systems with recycling at the end-of-life provide a pathway to lower environmental impacts and a source of high value materials that can be used in producing new batteries. Because environmental regulations concerning end-of-life batteries are not fully developed or implemented, most of these batteries currently end up in the landfills, with a very small number of spent batteries sent to the existing recycling facilities. However, with proactive regulations, an increasing supply of spent batteries, and innovations in recycling technologies, end-of-life batteries could supply a significant fraction of the materials needed for manufacturing of new LIB. This paper reviews the current state of the LIB manufacturing supply chain, addresses some issues associated with battery end-of-life, and sheds light on the importance of LIB recycling from the environmental and value chain perspectives. We also discuss the expected benefits of recycling on the global LIB supply chain.