Britishvolt has announced a joint venture with strategic partner Glencore to build a battery recycling ecosystem in the UK.

This ecosystem will be based in a recycling plant located at the Britannia Refined Metals (BRM) operation in Northfleet, a Glencore company.  

Glencore, an Anglo-Swiss mining giant, is also teaming up with the British battery-maker to source essential materials for EV batteries. 

The project marks a return to recycling for BRM and aims to support creating a circular economy that supplies recycled materials and minerals back into the battery supply chain. 

Once complete, the plant will be Glencore and Britishvolt’s first UK battery recycling facility with an expected annual processing capacity of a minimum of 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion batteries, including valuable battery manufacturing scrap, portable electronics batteries and full EV packs. The facility will process all Britishvolt’s valuable battery manufacturing scrap from their Gigafactory in Blyth. 

The facility is expected to be up and running by mid-2023, with the long-term aim of being 100% powered by renewable energy. 

The JV will utilise Glencore’s multi-decade recycling experience across end-of-life materials such as discarded electronics, copper and alloy scraps and black mass. Both companies have said that battery recycling will be a vital part of the energy transition by recovering the critical metals needed for the energy transition. 

According to Timon Orlob, global chief operating officer of Britishvolt, Glencore will supply Britishvolt with responsibly-sourced cobalt, which will be sourced from Norway and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

“We believe the opportunity to utilise BRM’s operations as a cutting-edge battery recycling facility will help support the development of a UK battery recycling industry,” said David Brocas, Head Cobalt Trader at Glencore. 

“It will also play a part in furthering the UK’s climate ambitions as well as Glencore’s as we work towards net zero total emissions by 2050,” he added. 

The partnership also aims to research how to make the recycling of EV batteries easier and more cost-effective, maximising their supply chain value and influencing legislation, including increasing regulation of recycling and ESG requirements. 

This follows the UK government’s announcement in January that it would support Britishvolt with funding through the Automotive Transformation Fund. The subsidy allowed long-term partners Tritax and abrdn to deliver £1.7 billion in private financing to construct the shell and core of the UK battery maker’s Gigaplant in Northumberland. 

Last week, Britishvolt signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with carmaker Lotus to advance lithium-ion battery cells. 

Both moves will help to secure EV supply chains during a period of recovery and uncertainty. Recycling essential materials not only help reach sustainability targets but also makes sourcing key production components easier and circumvent the crisis-prone global logistics channels. 

Likewise, Britishvolt signing an agreement to develop battery production in the UK with Lotus brings production closer to the British and European markets and avoids outsourcing manufacturing to Asia, where EV battery output capacity is vast.  

Moreover, Asia also leads in battery recycling, which is increasingly important to governments and firms with sustainability aims. 

Suppliers aren’t the only companies with an imperative to bring EV battery production home. The same strategy is reflected in the behaviour of OEMs.  

Last year, Ford announced that it would be working with Redwood Materials to localise the production to the US and recycling of lithium-ion batteries for its electric vehicles (EVs). The companies aim to achieve the “best approach” for collecting and disassembling end-of-life batteries from Ford EVs to produce all-new batteries in a closed-loop supply chain. 

In Europe, battery maker CATL announced a strategic partnership with German chemicals firm BASF in battery materials solutions to support the recycling of powertrain components.