A second province in China has announced plans to capitalise on the lead-acid and lithium-ion battery recycling sector in as many weeks as the country positions itself to become a world leader through a series of government-led regulations.
The latest province to announce plans is Sichuan, where 35 firms have requested licenses to collect and transfer waste lead-acid batteries.
The first batch of licenses will be issued across 20 cities to pilot companies to allow them to collect a combined 900,000 mt (around 400,000 mt was placed on its recycling market in 2018) of used lead-acid batteries a year, reported the media outlet Shanghai Metal News.
China’s government issued its ‘Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Used Lead-acid Battery Pollution’ in January that set the goal of standardising the collection of at least 40% of all used lead-acid batteries by 2020, and 70% by 2025.
Last week, BEST reported how the country’s Hainan Province was planning to build a recycling network for used batteries from new energy vehicles (NEVs).
However, at today’s price levels industry analysts CRU International predict a net loss of $285/t for recycling lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries.
In a report, CRU stated: “Since scrapped volumes of NCM & NCA batteries are still very low, the lack of economies-of-scale is proving to be a major obstacle achieving a genuinely profitable industry.
“Cathode makers sometimes apply additives and coatings for better cathode performance– their ingredients vary and are not always transparent. This increases the difficulties of extraction and may impact the quality of the recycled chemicals.”
CRU is in the process of developing an ELV Battery Recycling Model that will quantify valuable metals that can be recovered globally over the long term.
As the world’s largest consumer of xEVs (battery, hybrids and plug-in hybrid vehicles) the country represented 30% of global sales and the country is well set to dominate the battery recycling market.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) is updating regulations and standards, with CRU expecting tighter and more comprehensive regulations for this sector going forward.
China’s General Office of the State Council issued the first regulations guiding the construction of a lithium-ion recycling system seven years ago called the ‘Energy Conservation and New Energy Automobile Industry Development Program (2012-2020)’.
Battery producers (such as CATL, JHD and BAK), recyclers/re-users (GEM, Brunp, Ganpower, Camel, Zhongtianhongli), battery metal miners and refineries (Huayou, Ganfeng) are developing capacity for their mandated portions of the ELV battery recycling chain, state CRU.
Car manufacturers are also working with recyclers, with Beijing Electric Vehicle partnering with Huayou and Ganpower; BYD with GEM; and SAIC Motor with CATL.
China Power has used 2GWh of second-life batteries– including establishing 200,000 base stations– in the period 2015-2018.
The CRU report stated it expected regulations to facilitate a sustainable and high-quality development of China’s ELV battery recycling industry, but a number of challenges and bottlenecks may hinder the integration of such systems in the country.
It stated: “Overall, there has not been an explicit, overarching framework of rules yet imposed for the second use of ELV batteries outside of China; but some car manufacturers have started to invest in facilities to reassemble ELV batteries for re-use in energy storage.
“In the US and Australia, there are no regulations that specifically address ELV batteries, and as such the recycling system may still take time to develop.”
However, the US government has initiated the research initiative ReCell Center and materials firm Lithium Australia is slowly taking control of lithium-ion battery recycler Envirostream, which aims to process up to 3,000tpa of batteries in Australia.