Chemistry is the key to the circular economy and at Solvay we want to play a leading role in this transition. As part of Solvay’s commitment to protecting natural resources, in 2020 we partnered with the global utilities group Veolia to create a circular economy consortium that will enable the production of circular electric vehicle (EV) batteries by offering new solutions that promise better resource efficiency. In 2021, Groupe Renault, a top automotive player, joined the partnership.
The consortium focuses on optimizing the reuse of critical metals in spent EV batteries, as they currently are not always recovered at their maximum value. With the number of electric vehicles on the road expected to grow from 8 million in 2020 to 116 million worldwide by 2030, ensuring stable access to raw materials is a strategic challenge.
“We are proud to reinforce our commitment to battery recycling by joining forces with Veolia and Solvay. Together, we will leverage our strong presence on the entire EV value chain in Europe to take a competitive position in the battery materials market and generate value beyond our core business.”Luca de Meo CEO of Renault
How the consortium will breathe new life into spent EV batteries
A circular economy means reinventing the way we do business. It requires novel partnerships, collaboration and bonding across the value chain to build the right ecosystem that brings together each company’s unique expertise.
Solvay’s technologies are essential in closing the loop of circular economy. We are a leader in applying our chemical refining capabilities to optimize the extraction and purification of critical metals such as cobalt, nickel and lithium and transform them into high-purity raw materials for new batteries. Solvay is also present in the EV and hybrid battery value chain thanks to its high-performance specialty polymers for binders and separators and specialty additives for electrolytes.
Solvay, Veolia and Renault will leverage their respective technologies and core competences at each step of the value chain. Our work complements Veolia’s process to collect, transport, dismantle and mechanically process end-of-life batteries, extracting value metals through a hydrometallurgical battery recycling process. This is reinforced by Renault’s ability to repair first-life batteries to extend their automotive lifespan, develop second-life applications for energy storage and set up a system for collecting and recycling batteries.
The three partners have already set up a pre-industrial demo plant in France to extract and purify end-of-life EV battery materials.
“Given the magnitude of the environmental issues the world is facing, ecological transformation is an urgent need. We are collectively taking a step further towards closed-loop solutions to preserve natural resources. This shows how companies working together can think up and implement new solutions that both better our environment and renew our economies.”Antoine Frérot CEO of Veolia
Moving from traditional recycling to a circular economy solution
Conventional recycling processes fail to offer a cost-effective reuse solution for the materials in spent EV batteries. Typically, recycling results in lower grade metal mixes, which is wholly unsuitable for new batteries. The conventional process is also high in cost and generates a high CO2 footprint.
Moving to a circular economy solution will ensure access to critical raw materials, decrease recycling costs, and lower the CO2 footprint of the recycling process.
Group revenues generated by renewable or recycled materials
“This is a great example of partnership in the value chain that makes the circular economy a reality for battery materials. We are thrilled to partner with Veolia and Renault and we view them as a critical link in closing the loop. This project exemplifies how we walk the talk with our sustainability roadmap as we aim to more than double revenues generated in a circular economy by 2030.”Ilham Kadri CEO of Solvay Group
Establishing such a consortium is strategically important for Solvay, as it addresses our Solvay One Planet objectives and our determination to help to build a more circular economy. As part of that effort, Solvay joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2018 as a Strategic Partner and as the only multinational chemical company leading the way towards a circular economy.
“With the launch of its Solvay One Planet plan, the company is sending a strong signal to the chemical industry and its value chain that the circular economy is happening – and that Solvay wants to lead the way.”Ellen MacArthur, Founder and Chair of Trustees, Ellen MacArthur Foundation