The Argonne model informs key technology decisions for two innovative recycling companies.
A model developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory informed the technology of the two teams that won the prestigious Battery Recycling Award. These successful applications of the model, called EverBatt, demonstrate its potential to help shape a robust battery recycling industry.
The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Awards was a $5.5 million prize competition launched in 2019 by the DOE’s Office of Vehicle Technology and Advanced Manufacturing. This was managed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The competition was intended to encourage American companies to demonstrate processes for recovering and recovering battery materials.
“We used EverBatt to analyze automated sorting systems with different functions and throughputs, which allowed us to optimize the system for the greatest economic benefit to the recycling industry.” — Li Industries CEO Zheng Li
Rigorous analysis to guide emerging industries
According to Argonne, annual sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in the US will grow from just a few thousand in 2011 to hundreds of thousands in 2020.
With the rapid adoption of EVs, the amount of used EV batteries could soon grow significantly. This indicates the urgent need for extensive infrastructure to reuse, repurpose and recycle batteries.
Argonne developed EverBatt to address this need. EverBatt is a free and open Excel-based tool. Users can directly compare the cost and environmental impact of EV battery recycling and other supply chain processes. Environmental impacts include energy use, water use, and air pollutant emissions.
EverBatt’s purpose is to inform investment decisions in sustainable and cost-effective recycling infrastructure. As a simple example, EverBatt helps users evaluate how specific steps in battery manufacturing affect energy use during disassembly and recycling of batteries at end-of-life. During the manufacturing process, battery packs may be closed with bolts or welded joints.
Since its release in 2019, EverBatt has been downloaded by over 2,000 users. They include battery and car manufacturers, recycling companies, researchers, and others.
The main strength of this model is its flexibility. For example, the model can adapt to different battery chemistries and manufacturing methods. Argonne often works with his chain of battery supply companies to customize models for their specific needs. Changes are informed by extensive research to determine additional costs and environmental parameters. These collaborations can inform important technology decisions as the company grows.
Jeff Spangenberger, Materials Recycling Group Leader at Argonne, said: “They can help us maximize that potential.”
Insights into Recycling Grid Storage Systems
Argonne customized EverBatt for Illinois-based Renewance. This company led one of the winning teams in the prize contest. Battery owners use Renewance’s digital platform to determine the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly reuse, repurposing and recycling options.
Many of Renewance’s customers have fixed grid storage systems in remote locations that need to be retired. This includes dismantling components before transporting them to recycling or reuse facilities. The costs and greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation can be substantial.
Renewal can potentially reduce logistics-related costs and emissions by storing equipment in a “temporary storage” warehouse. Equipment can be transported as long as it is large enough to transport a truckload of cargo.
EverBatt’s public version focuses on EV batteries. As a result, analysis of decommissioning, intermediate storage and transportation activities related to stationary storage is not included. Argonne customized the model to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from these activities in all 50 states.
A customized EverBatt model helped Renewance demonstrate the benefits of intermediate storage to customers.
Renewance co-founder Sander Jacobs said: “This model allows us to provide our clients with the most cost-effective and sustainable logistics.”
EverBatt has revealed that greenhouse gas emissions from interim storage can vary significantly depending on warehouse location. Differences are caused by differences in regional power mixes.
Qiang Dai, Sustainability Analyst at Argonne, the creator of EverBatt, said:
Renewance also uses EverBatt’s emissions estimates to inform customers about warehousing and transportation during the battery’s operating life. This includes activities related to initial installation, commissioning, and warranty-related replacements.
Smarter battery sorting
Argonne also customized EverBatt for Virginia-based Li Industries. Li Industries won an award for its Smart Battery Sorting System. The technology uses machine learning, cameras and other sensors to automate the sorting and segregation of used lithium-ion batteries. The systems can be categorized by battery type and chemical composition.
Li Industries has designed a technology that enables faster, more accurate, and less costly separation compared to traditional manual sorting processes. The separated batteries are recycled into battery materials suitable for reuse.
Argonne customized EverBatt to assess the potential costs of a sorting system and the environmental impact on its recycling supply chain. This effort included creating new cost models for automatic and manual sorting technologies. Argonne also changed transport parameters to account for the unique considerations of sorting.
Analysis by EverBatt reveals that the overall cost of automated sorting plants is consistently lower than manual sorting plants. This is due to a significant reduction in labor costs. The model also showed that automated sorting has a negligible environmental impact compared to the entire recycling supply chain.
Zheng Li, CEO of Li Industries, said: “Our automated sorting line helps recyclers more effectively separate high-value and low-value batteries. This feature could increase the recycling rate of more profitable battery materials.” there is potential.”
Another EverBatt insight: By co-locating the sorting plant with the pretreatment or recycling plant, additional transportation costs can be avoided.
“We used EverBatt to analyze automated sorting systems with different functions and processing power,” says Li. “This allowed us to optimize the system for maximum economic benefit to the recycling industry.”
“The ability to customize EverBatt has provided both Li Industries and Renewance with insight into commercialization barriers and other challenges,” said Lauren Lynch, senior mechanical engineer at NREL. . “This helped them optimize the concept.” Lynch was the official reviewer and prize manager for the recycling prize contest.
Building an integrated national recycling ecosystem
EverBatt helps recycling stakeholders understand how to best integrate various supply chain stages.
“One of the biggest benefits of EverBatt is the ability to input decisions at one stage of the supply chain and see how they affect the industry as a whole,” said Li. “These insights will help policymakers create better regulations, incentives and infrastructure.”
“Customizing EverBatt for the recycling industry is a two-way street,” said Dai of Argonne. “Companies will gain insights that will help them develop their technology. At the same time, Argonne researchers will also learn about the practical aspects of recycling. This will help make EverBatt a more comprehensive and accurate model.” I can.”