E-mobility: TRUMPF enables the recycling of electric car batteries on an industrial scale

Above: A TRUMPF employee explains where the battery will be cut open by the laser. (Photo: TRUMPF)

For the first time, carmakers and battery manufacturers can now recycle used or defective batteries from electric cars on an industrial scale using laser technology from TRUMPF. The high-tech company develops laser systems that cut used batteries safely and remove the valuable raw materials from the battery foil.

“Recycling batteries makes ecological sense and, thanks to laser technology, can now also be implemented economically,” says Hagen Zimer, CEO of Laser Technology at TRUMPF. “TRUMPF can draw on extensive expertise in laser welding and cutting for the production of e-car batteries. We’ve been working with all leading car and battery manufacturers for years and we have incorporated this experience into the development of the new processes.”

A large market for recycling e-car batteries

Without valuable raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel, there are currently no electric car batteries. However, the extraction of these raw materials is expensive and not always sustainable. Manufacturers must also accept long and uncertain supply chains. In addition, the EU requires a recycling rate of up to 90 percent for batteries.

“The industry therefore has to recycle on a large scale. The market for laser processes for recycling batteries, which is currently emerging, is huge,” says Alexander Sauer, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA. In Europe alone, the industry will have to recycle 570,000 tons of battery material annually from 2030.

Lasers ensure high recycling rates

The electrodes for new battery cells are created as foil strips coated with valuable materials such as cobalt and nickel. In a future recycling plant, laser processes can remove the wafer-thin layer from the foil. Manufacturers can collect the precious dust and process it for new coatings. Until now, it was not uncommon for miles of coated foils to end up as waste in the garbage. 

Cutting open used or faulty batteries using laser technology enables battery recycling to be scaled up. (Photo: TRUMPF)

In the future, laser technology could also be used to recycle battery packs. Laser technology is the only way to ensure efficient and automated dismantling, for example, to remove the covers from batteries or to cut off cables. The raw materials can then be sorted and the battery cells that are still usable can be separated and reused directly. Until now, dismantling electric car batteries has been a manual process. It is laborious, slow, and sometimes dangerous for workers.

The high-tech company will present the new laser processes for the first time at the leading trade fair for battery technology, the Battery Show Europe 2024, in Stuttgart, Germany. In North America, manufacturers that are interested in discussing how TRUMPF laser systems are improving battery production and recycling should plan to visit the TRUMPF booth (1811) at this year’s U.S. Battery Show in Detroit, Michigan on October 7-10, 2024.

“Laser technology has proven its ability to manufacture safer and higher performance batteries. Now we see additional opportunities for lasers in battery recycling -- a growing market in North America,” says TRUMPF Inc. Automotive Industry Manager Pierson Cheng. “The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electric vehicle (EV) sales have quadrupled and predicts a rising demand for EVs will increase the lithium battery market by five- to ten-fold by 2030. Considering these statistics, new technologies, such as laser systems from TRUMPF, will be of critical importance to recycling the materials from these batteries at the end of their lifecycles.”