Mercedes breaks ground on a new battery recycling facility in Germany

Mercedes has broken ground on a new battery recycling facility in Germany, with a focus on “closing the loop” and allowing the automaker to purchase more battery materials sustainably.

Two of the biggest challenges in the electric vehicle industry are the cost of battery materials and what happens to batteries when they are at the end of their useful life. However, more and more manufacturers are finding that these two problems can help solve each other through the use of battery recycling. In efforts to source more materials more sustainably and cheaply, Mercedes has broken ground on its first battery recycling facility that will slowly ramp up to help meet the automaker’s material demand.

Mercedes’ new facility in Kuppenheim, Germany, aims to achieve a remarkable 96% recycling rate for four key materials; lithium, cobalt, nickel and finally graphite. It will have an annual recycling capacity of 2,500 tons and aims to begin processing by the end of this year.

“This foundation symbolizes the decisive step towards closing the material cycle for batteries from Mercedes-Benz,” says Jörg Burzer, Member of the Board of Management at Mercedes-Benz. “With a recycling rate of more than 96 percent, a ‘mine of tomorrow’ is being created here in Kuppenheim. The innovative technological approach enables us to incorporate the valuable raw materials into new Mercedes-EQ vehicles. We are consistently expanding our expertise in the battery value chain and are taking an important step in our strategy towards ‘Electric Only’.”

Mercedes also specifies that the new facility will be 100% carbon neutral as part of the German automaker’s continued efforts to decarbonize its production facilities in the coming years. This is achieved through a mixture of solar energy installed on the plant and green energy purchased from the grid.

German regulators were quick to point out that the new facility will also be a vital part of the country’s efforts to limit its reliance on imports of rare earths, which have been hit particularly hard on the European continent due to the COVID pandemic, the COVID- restrictions in China and Rissian invasion of Ukraine.

“This is of particular importance in light of the limited availability of important and highly sought-after raw materials such as lithium, cobalt or nickel,” noted Thekla Walker, Minister for the Environment, Climate Protection and Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg. “Crises such as the corona pandemic or the brutal Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have clearly shown our dependence on supply chains and primary raw materials. Increased recycling can help reduce this dependence on critical raw materials and thus strengthen the economy’s resilience.”

Mercedes joins Tesla, General Motors and many others in establishing battery recycling worldwide. Tesla has already announced that it would make recycled materials a bigger part of its production using Redwood materials. General Motors has been working closely with Lithion to establish battery recycling as part of its planned introduction of several electric vehicles in the near future. At the same time, national governments are also encouraging many of these projects to help reduce the waste that could become a problem in a fully electrified future.

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded one of its first ever lithium battery recycling loans to an Upstate New York battery recycler, LiCycle. And with the growing need for this infrastructure, the agency is expected to continue investing in the future.

As Mercedes rapidly grows the number of electric vehicles it sells globally in the coming years, battery recycling facilities like this will be critical to its growth and success. Hopefully it can set an example for other manufacturers moving forward and help make electric cars more and more sustainable.

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