As sales of electric vehicles shoot higher in New Jersey and across the nation, there are growing concerns about recycling the batteries that run these cars and trucks, so they don’t wind up being tossed in a landfill or posing an explosive threat.

Now comes word a New Jersey company has been awarded $10 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to work on recycling and reusing batteries for electric vehicles.

Princeton NuEnergy Inc. in Bordentown is working on decreasing the cost of recycling and improving the recycling rate of lithium-ion batteries.

Chief Strategy Officer Stephen Snyder said the recycling methods being used for EV batteries are hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processes, but Princeton NuEnergy is working on a new approach.

Courtesy Princeton NuEnergy
Courtesy Princeton NuEnergy
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Direct recycling

He said a direct recycling method more efficiently recovers, regenerates and reuses the components of these batteries directly, without breaking down their chemical structure.

“What we try to do is basically take the batteries apart, and effectively, like furniture for spring cleaning, you dust it off and then you put it back,” he said.

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He said while this approach is more complex it is more cost-effective, it uses 70% less energy and less pollution is emitted in the process.

"The whole process of recycling and making sure that these batteries not only have their original life but multiple lives beyond that is key.”

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Don't toss them out

He said it’s essential to develop more efficient ways to recycle EV batteries because they contain components that may not be readily available in the U.S. in the future.

“The last thing we want to do is put critical materials like lithium, cobalt, cadmium nickel in a landfill. Far, far too valuable.”

Snyder said the company has just launched a direct recycling factory in Texas that is initially focusing on smaller consumer electronics batteries.

He explained the direct recycling approach will then be applied to EV batteries in the coming years but one challenge will be “they may be in fairly extensive packaging," which makes it more difficult.

So when will the direct recycling approach for EV batteries begin in earnest?

“Our factories for doing exactly that are on the drawing boards for 2024, 2025 launch, which is in parallel with much of the battery construction that’s going on today.”

He said Energy Department officials are looking at multiple issues right now, trying to figure out how to make the EV batteries of the future easier to recycle.

“There’s a lot of exploration going on which is probably above our pay grade, but hopefully we have a voice in that discussion.”

Snyder added as EV sales dramatically increase in the coming years, many of their batteries will reach their final life by 2030 or 2035 so the goal is to make it more easy and efficient to recycle and reuse all of them

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