Tesla is working to become more environmentally friendly in its operations and product manufacturing. The company's new patent for a method of recovering materials from used rechargeable lithium batteries will help achieve this goal even more, while greatly increasing the reusability of materials and saving costs.
Rechargeable lithium batteries are a very popular type of battery. In recent years, especially with the rapid growth of the electric vehicle market, there has been an explosion in public demand for electric vehicles.
The main components of a battery include the anode, cathode and electrolyte. During the charge and discharge cycle, lithium ions move between the anode and cathode inactive materials through the electrolyte. In recent years, the market share of high-capacity nickel-rich cathode materials for the electric vehicle market has been expanding. This trend is expected to continue into the next decade.
Given the significant growth of the electric vehicle market and the huge demand for the aforementioned cathode materials, future production of rechargeable lithium batteries may be limited by global shortages of key elements such as Ni, Co and Li, while the unstable geopolitical situation is also an important uncertainty. Tesla believes that battery recycling will play a key role in the supply of some of these key materials.
In addition, used rechargeable lithium batteries have a large impact on the environment, so their recycling is essential. To date, none of Tesla's used lithium batteries have been sent to landfill; they are 100% recycled. However, Tesla is still looking for the best possible recycling methods, the most important point being to extract useful materials efficiently and that these materials can be reused in the production of new batteries.
Much of the R&D in the field of rechargeable lithium battery recycling has been focused on acid leaching technology, but the purity of the recovered cathode material has been declining. In addition, downstream processes require expensive systems to treat wastewater before it can be discarded into the natural environment. This creates a significant environmental footprint over the life cycle of an electric vehicle battery, which Tesla aims to significantly reduce.
On December 21, 2021, Tesla filed a patent for "Method for recovering material from used rechargeable lithium batteries", which was published on June 30, 2022, local time. It describes a method for recovering valuable materials from used rechargeable lithium batteries, particularly nickel-based cathode batteries. Specifically, the proposed method involves the production of a substantially pure material that can be used to make cathode active materials for new rechargeable lithium batteries.
For the recycling of rechargeable lithium batteries, Tesla is certainly setting a good benchmark for the electric vehicle sector as a whole, especially when the benefits and environmental protection are a win-win situation, and the large investment in R&D is certainly worth it. Tesla is currently piloting the production of its innovative "4680" large battery, and it is believed that it will continue to expand its production scale in the future. As mentioned above, with the scarcity of materials, the emergence of these battery recycling technologies is undoubtedly an important step in Tesla's visionary strategy.