Electromobility is transforming Germany’s automotive industry but manufacturing is only part of the story. Recycling sits at the end of the electric vehicle (EV) value chain, but is a vital for the future of the industry. The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Cycles and Resource Strategy (IWKS) has therefore started construction of a “Centre for Dismantling and Recycling – Electromobility” (ZDR-EMIL) in Hanau, to recover valuable materials and reduce the carbon footprint of EVs.
"With the ZDR-EMIL, automated and flexible dismantling and recycling processes are developed for all components of electric vehicles. In cooperation with regional industry partners, we can achieve a high level of recycling efficiency with regard to economic aspects, resilience and sustainability," explains Dr Jörg Zimmermann, project manager of ZDR-EMIL in a .
Batteries, fuel cells, power electronics and magnets are expensive components within EVs that require careful end-of-life handling. Firstly, any parts that can be repaired or re-used will be. Then safe dismantling is undertaken by robots, followed by sustainable mechanical and hydromechanical methods for selective fragmentation. Not just valuable technological metals are recovered, but also construction materials such as plastic, aluminium and steel.
Underlining the importance of the project, Angela Dorn, Minister for the Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts, which is funding the centre, , "All natural resources on our planet are finite. It is therefore one of our central future tasks to deal with materials and resources in a sustainable manner. This is particularly true for electromobility.”
The IWKS will pass on the knowledge gained to auto makers. The techniques for recovering raw materials from EVs should be economically viable to carry out within Germany, to establish what Dorn calls a “geopolitically independent material cycle for the development and production of high-tech components.”