hydrovolt battery recycling
The Hydrovolt JV says its process allows up to 95 percent of materials from discarded EV batteries to be recovered and recycled..
Photo courtesy of Norsk Hydro ASA.

Hydro JV starts up battery recycling plant

Metal producer’s Hydrovolt plant in Norway can process 12,000 metric tons of battery packs annually.

Hydrovolt, a battery recycling joint venture (JV) firm created in 2020 by Norway-based aluminum producer Hydro and Sweden-based Northvolt AB, has started commercial recycling operations at its plant in Fredrikstad, Norway.

The JV says the Hydrovolt facility is Europe’s largest electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling plant, with capacity to process 12,000 metric tons of battery packs on annual basis, corresponding to about 25,000 EV batteries.

“Hydrovolt represents a milestone on Norway’s trailblazing journey towards widespread electric transportation,” Hydrovolt CEO Peter Qvarfordt says. “Norway has been leading the world in adoption of EVs for some years, but what has been missing is recycling capacity to ensure a sustainable solution for those batteries as they reach end of life. Today, Hydrovolt is scaled to handle the entire volume of end-of-life batteries in Norway, but we’re now looking towards expanding to ensure we’re prepared for the higher flows of batteries we know are coming,” he adds.

The JV firm says it is using a “fully automated recycling process” at Hydrovolt that enables up to 95 percent of materials to be recovered from discarded batteries, including plastics, copper, aluminum and black mass, a powder containing nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium.

By 2025, it is expected Hydrovolt will produce more than 2,000 metric tons of black mass annually at its Fredrikstad plant. From the start, the black mass will be supplied to Northvolt for additional recycling and recovery measures, the firms say. Processing black mass into battery-grade material will involve a hydrometallurgical treatment being established at Northvolt’s Revolt Ett plant in Skellefteå, Sweden.

“Aluminum recovered by Hydrovolt will be delivered to Hydro for recirculation into commercial grade aluminum products,” Hydro says.

Hydrovolt says “several novel concepts” designed to maximize recovery of materials are found within its new plant, including a dust collection system designed to ensure “valuable material typically lost through mechanical recycling steps is captured.”

The Hydrovolt JV partners say they are exploring an expansion of recycling capacity within Europe, with a long-term target to recycle 70,000 metric tons of battery packs by 2025 and 300,000 metric tons of battery packs by 2030, equivalent to approximately 150,000 EV batteries in 2025 and 500,000 in 2030.

“Batteries play a key role in the world’s transition to renewable energy,” says Arvid Moss, an executive vice president with Hydro. “Through Hydrovolt, we are laying the foundations for a sustainable and circular supply chain for batteries in Europe. Batteries reaching end-of-life will get a new life through the recovery of black mass and aluminum. Aluminum can be recycled with only 5 percent of the initial energy required to produce primary aluminum, which makes it a perfect material for a circular economy.”

Emma Nehrenheim, chief environmental officer of Northvolt, says, “Recycling end-of-life batteries is a cornerstone to ensuring the EV transition is a true success from an environmental perspective. The metals used in battery production are finite, but by substituting raw materials mined from the Earth with recycled materials we can not only cut the carbon footprint of batteries but enable the sustainable long-term use of li-ion battery technology.”