Current Developments and Challenges in the Recycling of Key Components of (Hybrid) Electric Vehicles
The introduction of electromobility causes major challenges as new components and materials enter vehicle recycling. This paper discusses the current developments in the recycling of traction batteries, electric motors, and power electronics, which constitute the key components of (hybrid) electric vehicles. Both technical and ecological aspects are addressed. Beside base metals, all components contain metals that are considered critical by the EU (European Union), e.g., rare earth elements, cobalt, antimony, and palladium. As electromobility is a new trend, no recycling routes have been established at an industrial scale for these components. The implementation is complicated by small return flows and a great variety of vehicle concepts as well as components. Furthermore, drastic changes regarding design and material compositions can be expected over the next decades. Due to hazards and high weights, there is a strong research emphasis on battery recycling. Most pilot-scale or semi-industrial processes focus on the recovery of cobalt, nickel, and copper due to their high value. Electric motors and power electronics can be fed into established recycling routes if they are extracted from the vehicle before shredding. However, these processes are not capable of recovering some minor metals such as rare earth elements and antimony.