Kia Motors and SK Innovation partner to build a circular economy for EV batteries

A researcher of SK Innovation looks at the lithium dioxide extracted from a used EV battery

■ A year-long empirical testing after sealing the MOU on ”the establishment of an ecosystem for a battery industry for EVs” last March

■ Aiming to attain a virtuous cycle of the materials for a high voltage battery, a key part of EV, and to curtail CO₂

■ Used batteries will be reutilized as an ESS or recycled by recovering the metal resources such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, etc.

Kia Motors and SK Innovation join forces to achieve a circular economy of electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

This aims to attain the virtuous cycle of the materials of high-voltage batteries for EV and reduce CO₂ through reuse or recycling batteries after use.

Kia Motors and SK Innovation announced on the 29th that they had secured the possibility of building an industrial ecosystem that enables eco-friendly handling of EV batteries and technological basis thereof by re-collecting metals such as lithium from used batteries.

As a part of the endeavor to reinforce their ESG management, the two companies signed an MOU to establish an industrial ecosystem for electric vehicle batteries in March last year. They have conducted empirical testing for the used battery recycling and subsequently evaluated the possibility of collecting metal within the battery, its effects and efficiency, etc.

Under the umbrella of Hyundai Motor Group, Kia Motors evaluates used batteries with a battery performance testing system and reuses those that exhibit good residual battery performance as energy storage systems (ESS) by classifying them into modules or packs.

If the residual performance is low, the battery will be decomposed into cell units and the metal is recovered through recycling. After use, the battery contains a lithium electrolyte inside, so it requires a technology that is more difficult than recovering lithium from the waste cathode material generated during battery manufacturing.

SK Innovation uses its own technology to recover metal resources such as lithium hydroxide, nickel, and cobalt from the battery after use, and then re-use it to manufacture the cathode material(*) for batteries.

(*) A core material that determines battery performance (capacity, output, etc.)

The two companies plan to build a circular ecosystem of EV batteries that includes ▲ pre-treatment (battery disassembly), ▲ metal resource recovery, ▲ use of cathode materials, ▲ battery manufacturing, ▲ vehicle installation for after-use batteries. Also, they will create various management models for eco-friendly disposal of batteries after use to contribute to the expansion of ESG management.

Kwon Hyuk-ho, Head of Domestic Business Division of Kia Motors, commented, ”KIA and SK Innovation will jointly establish a used battery utilization system to enhance the social responsibility and sustainability management of manufacturers following the popularization of EVs.” “This process will also be applied to EV6, the first EV of KIA, which is scheduled to be released in the second half of this year, to strengthen our position as an eco-friendly mobility brand.”

“After-use battery recycling is one of the responses to the growing demand for metal resources caused by global popularization EVs, and it helps mitigate GHG gas emissions and environmental burdens in Korea,” said Kim Cheol-jung, Head of Corporate Strategy & Development Division of SK Innovation. He added, “This cooperation will serve as a stepping stone to expand the after-use battery utilization system worldwide.”

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