BMW Group, Northvolt and Umicore join forces to develop sustainable life cycle loop for batteries.

Munich/Stockholm/Brussels. The BMW Group, Northvolt
and Umicore have formed a joint technology consortium in order to work
closely together on the continued development of a complete and
sustainable value chain for battery cells for electrified vehicles in
Europe. The project is seeking to press ahead with the sustainable
industrialisation of battery cells in Europe and the associated
acquisition of skills, from cell chemistry and development through to
production and ultimately recycling. The development activities of the
pan-European consortium will help to create high-tech jobs, thereby
fully supports the EU Battery Alliance, founded by European
Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, stating: “Batteries are instrumental in
our transition to clean mobility and clean energy systems. Thanks to
genuine involvement of actors from all segments of the battery value
chain, Europe is becoming the lead player in this strategic area. I
therefore welcome that key actors of our automotive sectors are
investing in the future of European battery innovation and
manufacturing.”The chief objective is to make battery cells
sustainable by establishing a closed life cycle loop. This starts with
a recyclable cell design and continues with a manufacturing process
that mostly uses renewable energy. The next step is a long period of
primary use as a drive battery, possibly followed by another phase of
secondary use as a stationary energy storage device. At the end of its
life cycle, the cell is recycled and the raw materials reused, thereby
completing the loop.

In view of the growing numbers of electrified vehicles, establishing
a broad basis for procuring battery cells is becoming a matter of
greater strategic significance for manufacturers. With Northvolt as a
partner focused on sustainable production and the BMW Group in its
capacity as a carmaker that is already developing its own battery
cells today, this can be achieved to great effect. Because battery
cells contain essential resources and materials, feeding these back
into the loop becomes more and more important as electric vehicles
multiply in number. As Umicore is a global leader in the development
and production of active materials for battery cells and resource
recycling and the BMW Group boasts tremendous expertise in material
and cell design, there are high hopes for some major achievements in
this area too. Sustainability and efficiency are both crucial factors
for Umicore.

In order to accelerate the
development of battery cells and make further progress in terms of
cell chemistry and cell design, the BMW Group’s new battery cell
centre of excellence will be inaugurated in summer 2019. Besides
battery cell development, other key skills will be pooled there too,
from the production of battery cell prototypes to build-to-print
expertise. This is important for the BMW Group as a way of endowing
potential suppliers for cell production with the necessary skills to
meet its own requirements. The BMW Group is already investing heavily
in the entire value chain today and, by so doing, is blazing a trail
when it comes to sustainability. Consequently, ensuring that raw
materials come from environmentally and socially responsible sources,
obliging cell suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint, using
recycled materials, and creating battery concepts that can be serviced
and easily recycled are already high priorities for the BMW Group,
which intends to continue strengthening its capabilities and expanding
its activities in this area.

“The sustainability approach of
Northvolt makes it a highly appealing company for us, that was
furthermore very receptive to our ideas,” remarked Klaus Fröhlich,
Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for
Development. For this reason, the BMW Group and Northvolt have been
collaborating for some time now as part of a strategic technology
project. The collaboration will leverage the capabilities of Northvolt
Labs, a scale-up line and research facility which will be used to test
and industrialize battery cells before large-scale production, with
the aim of developing cutting-edge green battery cells. The
collaboration has been supported by BMW Group through an investment to
enable the initial phase of the partnership. Sustainability is at the
core of Northvolt’s business and its ambition is to become one of the
first fully circular industrial companies. This is why all the
electrical power for its future production of battery cells originates
from renewable resources. Another important consideration for
Northvolt is local and responsible sourcing of the raw materials
needed. Sustainability has also been one of the BMW Group’s central
strategic targets for many years, meaning that the two companies
operate based on a similar ethic.

”BMW and Northvolt have a shared commitment to reduce CO2 emissions
from transportation. As batteries are becoming a key strategic
question for car manufacturers, this partnership does not only mark a
key milestone for Northvolt, it also highlights the importance of
sustainable battery cells in the coming wave of electrification”, said
Peter Carlsson, Co-Founder and CEO, Northvolt.

Materials development and recycling.
Umicore is
the partner responsible for active anode and cathode materials
development and recycling in the technology alliance. This
collaboration will enable innovative and highly efficient production
technologies to be applied to the production of active materials based
on recycled metals. In addition, this project covers smart battery
pack disassembly, screening for reutilisation of the battery cells and
feeding the recycled resources back into active material production.
As electric mobility continues to expand, growing needs will not be
limited to sustainable extraction of raw materials – recovering
materials that have already been used will also become increasingly
important in easing the burden on raw material production.

”It is rewarding to see that Umicore’s product technologies and
recycling services are key enablers for this technology alliance with
BMW and Northvolt. By jointly demonstrating a closed loop for high
performance, green and EU-based batteries, we are underlining the
future potential and importance of a European supply chain for the
success of car electrification in the region”, said Marc Grynberg, CEO
of Umicore.

The collaboration.
When it comes to key
technologies of the future, the BMW Group often works together with
established specialists and suppliers, young companies and start-ups.
This enables faster access to specific solutions. With this particular
technology project, the BMW Group, Northvolt and Umicore are laying
the basis for a sustainable value chain for automotive battery cells
in Europe, from development and production right through to recycling.

In Europe, the BMW Group has already been manufacturing modules with
supplied battery cells before using these modules to build complete
batteries for plug-in hybrids and battery-powered electric vehicles.
With its battery cell production, Northvolt provides the final element
needed for purely European production of complete batteries for
electric mobility applications in future, resulting in a substantial
reduction in carbon emissions at the same time.

The BMW Group is already demonstrating now how batteries can be used
as energy storage devices in both domestic and industrial applications
once the battery cells reach the end of their vehicle life cycle.

Umicore has recently announced it will soon start building a cathode
material manufacturing facility in Europe and already runs a recycling
plant for lithium-ion batteries in Europe. Umicore is advancing the
technology for recycling battery cells and returning the recycled
resources to the material production cycle, thereby making a vital
contribution to the future of sustainable mobility.