Industrial disassembling as a key enabler of circular economy solutions for obsolete electric vehicle battery systems
Electro-mobility is considered a key strategy to reduce GHG emissions in the transport sector and to make individual mobility more sustainable. However, the production of electric vehicles is accompanied by high environmental impacts, mainly due to the resource intensive high-voltage battery systems. Hence, a prerequisite for sustainable electro-mobility - beside the provision of renewable energy for vehicle charging - is a well-functioning and efficient circular use system of electric vehicle battery systems (EVBs). While the production of EVBs has been continuously improved in recent years with high levels of automation to reduce production costs and to increase capacities, end-of-life (EoL) treatment of EVBs is still rather simplistic with rough manual disassembling before in most cases pyro-metallurgical treatment. In this paper, we argue for the need of industrial disassembly systems to reach higher levels of circularity. In the best case, these systems are highly automated and use lifecycle information including production and use-phase data for decision support to enable optimum utilization at a module or even cell level. These pathways include both second-life concepts such as repurposing or reconditioning and high-level direct recycling of active materials. To demonstrate the advantages of an industrial disassembling in EoL battery treatment, we systematically analyze different utilization pathways and we compare state-of-the-art treatment with an advanced disassembly system. The qualitative argumentation is substantiated by quantitative stochastic simulation as well as cost and lifecycle data. We show that only with a well-functioning industrial disassembling, efficient closed-loop-supply-chains (CLSCs) for EVBs can be achieved.