Sumitomo making EV battery recycling progress

Subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate reportedly nearly ready to scale up to shred 7,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries per year.

sumitomo isoura plant
Nickel harvested by Sumitomo via its battery recycling process is being used in new batteries made at its Isoura facility in Japan (pictured).
Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Metal Mining.

Japan-based Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) is reportedly making progress in its effort to scale up what it considers to be a cost-effective process to harvest metals from end-of-life lithium-ion electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

On its website, SMM says the focus of its research is “to establish a stable and efficient system to supply materials using this high-purity nickel [recovered from end-of-life batteries] to customers.” The company also acknowledges the development of cost-effective recycling processes for lithium-ion batteries has proven “difficult.”

In 2019, SMM announced it had started recovering and recycling copper and nickel from lithium-ion batteries at its Non-Ferrous Metals Division’s Toyo Smelter & Refinery in Saijo City, Japan, beginning in July 2017.

On its website, SMM says its process “selectively recovers nickel, cobalt and copper as an alloy by using a pyrometallurgical refining process independent of the existing process to separate most of the impurities from the lithium-ion batteries.”

In late November, media reports from Nikkei Asia and Interesting Engineering indicate SMM wants to open a dedicated lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Japan by 2023 that “will be able to process 7,000 tons of crushed batteries each year,” according to Interesting Engineering.

The online articles mention “an increasing need to employ more recycled material” in EV batteries, pointing in part to proposed EU legislation that would require EV batteries to contain a minimum of 12 percent recycled-content cobalt and 4 percent recycled-content lithium and nickel by the end of this decade.

Sumitomo is among an increasing number of companies investing in methods designed to capture a perceived growing market for the metals to be harvested from what will soon be a growing volume of EV car batteries.

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