Energy Storage

Battery Recycling 235

This class introduces recycling policies and processes for rechargeable batteries, especially electric vehicle (EV) batteries. As more and more EV batteries reach end-of-life, finding ways to reuse their components is essential for environmental, financial, and ethical reasons. Currently, there are two main methods used to recycle EV batteries: hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy. Neither of these are ideal methods, but a third option, direct recycling, is being developed. Each process requires battery specialists and recyclers to be aware of the hazards and safety policies related to rechargeable battery handling, as well as the major steps involved in dismantling a battery.

After completing this course, users will have a basic understanding of the reasons for recycling EV batteries, some of the policies that support battery recycling, and the various recycling processes.

  • Difficulty Intermediate

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 10

  • Language English


Or fill out this form and a specialist will contact you shortly

Course Outline
  • Reasons for Recycling
  • Policies
  • Recyclable Components
  • Hazards and Safety
  • Battery Dismantling
  • Recycling Review
  • Shredding
  • Pyrometallurgy and Hydrometallurgy
  • Direct Recycling
  • Final Review
  • Describe common reasons for recycling rechargeable batteries.
  • Describe some of the battery recycling policies countries have adopted.
  • Describe the components that can be recycled from the most common types of EV batteries.
  • Describe potential hazards of and safety regulations for battery recycling.
  • Describe the steps taken to dismantle an EV battery.
  • Describe shredding.
  • Describe pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy.
  • Describe direct recycling and its potential advantages.
Vocabulary Term


Al. A highly conductive, lightweight, silvery metal. Aluminum is commonly used in lithium-ion battery cathodes.


The positive electrode in a battery. The anode in a lithium-ion battery is usually made of carbon.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

BIL. A 2022 U.S. law that authorizes spending on American infrastructure, including highways, transit, hazardous materials, and the rail program. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds projects working to improve the recycling and reuse of EV batteries.

black mass

A sooty powder produced by shredding rechargeable batteries that has high amounts of lithium, manganese, cobalt, and nickel metals. Metals are extracted from black mass to be used in the production of new batteries.


A strip of copper or aluminum that creates the main electrical connections between cells, modules, or other rechargeable battery components. Busbars are usually rigid, but flexible busbars are available.


C. A common, nonmetallic element that is very strong and has high resistance to heat. Carbon can be used to chemically discharge batteries.


The negative electrode in a battery. The cathode generally contains the most valuable recyclable material in an electric vehicle battery.


A single unit of a battery. A cell contains a cathode, an anode, and an electrolyte solution.

chemically discharging

A method of discharging a battery using a mixture of carbon and vermiculite or a saltwater solution. Chemical discharging a battery causes it to react with electrolytes in the solution, which eliminates its charge.


Co. A relatively soft, ductile, magnetic metal. Cobalt is commonly used in lithium-ion battery cathodes.

Code of Federal Regulations

A collection of general and permanent regulations utilized by the various departments and agencies of the U.S. federal government. The Code of Federal Regulations is updated once a year to reflect changes in policy.


The chemical reaction where an object catches fire and burns. Lithium combusting is a safety hazard of Li-ion batteries.


A measure of a material's ability to conduct current and act as a path for its movement. Conductivity is a positive feature of most metals.


A fluid used to prevent damage by absorbing heat from an operation and lubricating components. Coolants include water, oil, and synthetic fluids.


Cu. A reddish, nonferrous metal that is very ductile, thermally and electrically conductive, and corrosion resistant. Copper is commonly used in lithium-ion battery cathodes.


The mass of a material per unit of volume. Density describes the compactness of a material.

dilute sulfuric acid

A colorless, odorless, corrosive mixture containing less than 10&37; sulfuric acid. Dilute sulfuric acid helps dissolve nickel, manganese, cobalt, and lithium into recoverable salts.

direct recycling

A recycling method that involves rejuvenating a battery's cathode materials. Direct recycling is a more eco-friendly recycling method than hydrometallurgy or pyrometallurgy.


Having had all energy removed from a battery. Batteries must be fully discharged, or drained, before they can be safely recycled.


Taking apart the components that make up a battery. Dismantling involves removing the battery cells for recycling.


The process of boiling a metal alloy to separate metals with different boiling points from one another. Distillation allows metals with lower boiling points to evaporate from the alloy, and the vapor is condensed separately.


Having had all energy removed from a battery. Batteries must be fully drained, or discharged, before they can be safely recycled.

electric shock

The flow of electricity through the body. Electric shock can be fatal if severe enough.

electric vehicles

EVs. A vehicle that is propelled by an electric motor that draws its power from a battery. Electric vehicles require high-energy, lightweight, rechargeable batteries.


A device in an electrical circuit that conducts electricity. An electric vehicle battery cell contains two electrodes: the anode and the cathode.


A process that passes an electric current through a substance to create a chemical change. Electrolysis is used to separate metals.


A conductive solution containing an acid, an alkaline, or a salt. The electrolyte in a battery connects the two electrodes.


A basic form of a substance that cannot be further subdivided by chemical methods. Elements include substances such as oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon.


The state of a battery when it can no longer operate at an acceptable level, which typically occurs after 10-12 years or when the battery reaches 70% of its original capacity. End-of-life batteries can be repurposed for additional use or recycled.

energy independence

the ability of a country to meet its energy needs without needing to import energy resources. Energy independence can be achieved by using renewable energy resources, improving energy efficiency in infrastructure, increasing energy storage capabilities, and updating the electrical grid.

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA. The U.S. government agency responsible for administrating laws to control and reduce the pollution of air, water, and land systems. The Environmental Protection Agency carries out federal research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection.

EU Sustainable Batteries Regulation

An EU regulation that introduces requirements for the sustainability and safety of batteries and battery-operated products. The EU Sustainable Batteries Regulation provides guidelines on how to collect waste and recycle EV batteries.


Electric vehicle. A vehicle that is propelled by an electric motor that draws its power from a battery. EVs require high-energy, lightweight, rechargeable batteries.

external load

A device that converts electrical power into another form of energy. An external load is used to physically discharge a battery.


A substance that raises the ignition point of a material, making it resistant to fire. A common flame-retardant packing material used in the transportation of batteries is vermiculite.

free trade agreement

An agreement between two or more countries designed to reduce or eliminate certain barriers to trade. Free trade agreements help build stronger economic and commercial connections between participating countries.


A potentially hazardous gas or particulate matter generated by various manufacturing operations. Processes that produce fumes must use proper ventilation.


A type of personal protective equipment worn over the hands. Gloves protect the hands from exposure to high-temperature substances and/or toxic chemicals.

greenhouse gas emissions

The release of any gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions are produced in large amounts by many metallurgical processes, including pyrometallurgy.

hazardous waste

A disposable substance that poses a risk to human health or the environment. Hazardous waste requires special types of storage and handling to make it harmless or less dangerous.

heavy metals

A metal with high density. In large amounts, heavy metals can become toxic or dangerous.


A protective cover designed to contain the cells, modules, circuitry, and sensors of a rechargeable battery. A battery housing can be rigid metal or plastic.


A process that uses liquid solutions to extract and purify metals. Hydrometallurgy uses acids and other liquids to leach and recover metals such as cobalt, manganese, nickel, and small amounts of lithium from black mass.

Inflation Reduction Act

IRA. A 2022 U.S. law that aims to reduce inflation by reducing the federal budget deficit, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and investing in clean domestic energy. The Inflation Reduction Act incentivizes manufacturers to extract, process, and produce battery components in the United States.


The process of dissolving valuable metal into soluble salts. In leaching, unwanted materials do not dissolve, making it possible to separate out desired metals.


Pb. A bluish-white metal that is very soft and ductile. Lead is very easily recycled from batteries.

lead-acid batteries

A type of second cell battery that uses lead dioxide as a cathode and lead as an anode. Lead-acid batteries are very cheap to produce and, therefore, widely used despite their lower specific energy and energy density.

Li-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries. A type of secondary cell battery that uses a lithium compound as a cathode and, usually, graphite as an anode. Li-ion batteries are widely used in portable electronics and electric vehicles.


Li. A lightweight, silver-white metal that is highly reactive. Lithium is the most common element used in electric vehicle battery cathodes and electrolytes.

lithium-ion battery

Li-ion battery. A type of secondary cell battery that uses a lithium compound as a cathode and, usually, graphite as an anode. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in portable electronics and electric vehicles.


Mn. A grayish-white, metallic element that is not naturally magnetic but that can easily be magnetized. Manganese is commonly used in lithium-ion battery cathodes.


A naturally occurring material with high electric and thermal conductivity, luster, density, and strength. Examples of metals include copper, iron, nickel, and lead.


Extracting raw materials from the earth. Mining is the first step to obtaining metals used in battery production.


A unit that contains several battery cells connected in either series or parallel. Modules in EV battery packs also contain fuses, sensors, and cooling mechanisms.


The liquid state of metal. Pyrometallurgy creates a mixture of molten metal covered by slag.

National Fire Protection Association

NFPA. An organization devoted to eliminating deaths, injuries, and damages caused by fires. The National Fire Protection Association produces the National Electrical Code®, which sets standards for electrical safety and installation in the U.S.

national security

The security and defense of a country, including its citizens, economy, and institutions. By limiting dependence on international trade, a country can increase its national security.


Ni. A corrosion-resistant, nonferrous metal commonly added to electrodes and stainless steels to prevent corrosion. Nickel is commonly used in lithium-ion battery cathodes.

nickel-metal hydride batteries

NiMH batteries. A type of secondary cell battery that uses nickel hydroxide as a cathode and a hydrogen alloy as an anode. Nickel-metal hydride batteries are cheaper than Li-ion batteries and are used in some hybrid electric vehicles.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

OSHA. A federal government agency dedicated to reducing injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines for handling dangerous substances.

Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery

An office of the Environmental Protection Agency that promotes the conservation of resources, ensures proper waste management, prevents harmful exposure, and oversees the productive clearing and use of land. The Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery listed Li-ion batteries as "likely" hazardous waste in May 2023.

Part 273—Standards for Universal Waste Management

A set of regulations under Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations that deals with managing waste. Part 273—Standards for Universal Waste Management regulates waste found in batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, lamps, and aerosol cans.

personal protective equipment

PPE. Any of the various types of safety equipment that employees wear or use to prevent injury in the workplace. Common personal protective equipment includes safety glasses, gloves, masks, gowns, earplugs, and respirators.

physically discharging

A method of discharging a battery by using it to power an external load. Physically discharging a battery drains its voltage by converting it into heat, vibration, or other mechanical action.


The presence or introduction of a harmful or poisonous material in the environment. Mining operations cause pollution through greenhouse gas emissions and the use of toxic chemicals that leak into groundwater.


A process that selectively removes metals from a solution using reactive agents. Precipitation is often used in conjunction with other hydrometallurgical techniques to purify metals.


An operation that does not modify the structure of the battery cell. Pre-processing includes sorting, cleaning, and preparing the battery for transportation.


A process that uses high temperatures to extract and purify metals. Pyrometallurgy uses furnaces to separate metals such as cobalt, copper, and nickel from a slag layer.

rechargeable batteries

A battery that can be recharged. Rechargeable batteries, or secondary cell batteries, are charged by running electrical current back through them to restore their chemical energy and are found in technology like electric vehicles, smartphones, and laptops.


The process of collecting waste materials for reuse. Recovery involves extracting materials from end-of-life batteries to be used again in new batteries.


Reprocessing and reusing materials from a rechargeable battery. Recycling reduces damage to the environment by reducing the number of batteries being disposed of as waste, minimizing toxic waste from batteries, and decreasing mining practices.


The introduction of new lithium to end-of-life battery cathodes. Re-lithiation is a key step in the direct recycling process.


Using an object for a new purpose while maintaining its condition. Repurposing is also known as reusing.


Using an object for a new purpose while maintaining its condition. Reusing is also known as repurposing.

safety goggles

A type of tight-fitting eye protection that completely covers the eyes, sockets, and surrounding facial area. Safety glasses offer protection from impact, dust, chips, and splashes.


A chemical compound consisting of one positively charged ion and one negatively charged ion. Due to the combination of positive and negative charges, salts have no electrical charge.

secondary cell batteries

A battery that can be recharged. Secondary cell batteries, or rechargeable batteries, are charged by running electrical current back through them to restore their chemical energy and are found in technology like electric vehicles, smartphones, and laptops.

second-life batteries

A battery that can be used for additional purposes after its initial lifecycle is over. Second-life batteries, or repurposed batteries, have many uses, including stationary storage systems, microgrids, and smaller electric vehicles, such as bicycles and golf carts.


The flow of current along an unintended path. Short-circuiting can damage equipment and cause sparks or fire.


A series of mechanical processes that break down a battery. Shredding allows valued materials to be reclaimed from a battery.


Si. A blue-gray, nonmetallic, crystalline material that is hard and brittle. Silicon can be combined with carbon in a battery's anode to create high energy batteries.


The layer that forms on top of molten metals. Slag is separated from molten material during pyrometallurgy.


The measure of the amount of a substance that will dissolve in a liquid. A substance's solubility depends on the solvent being used, as well as temperature and pressure.


Able to be dissolved. Soluble metals dissolve into salts during leaching, which allows them to be recovered for future use.


A mixture composed of two or more substances. A solution is uniform in composition even though it may be made up of many substances.


A chemical that attempts to dissolve another material. Solvents are used to separate anode and cathode materials in direct recycling.


An established policy regarding a particular practice or method. Standards regarding battery recycling and disposal have been created by several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

supply chain

A network of companies that exchange resources, such as materials and information, to deliver products to customers. Supply chains consist of a company, its suppliers, its distributors, and its customers.

sustainable economic activity

Any practice that supports economic growth without negatively impacting social, environmental, or cultural components of a community. A strong sustainable economic activity balances economic growth with the impact it has on the environment and people.

thermal runaway

The process of a defective or damaged battery cell overheating and damaging nearby cells, causing them to also overheat. Thermal runaway can cause fires or explosions if not detected and stopped.

Title 40

The section of the Code of Federal Regulations that deals with the Environmental Protection Agency’s mission to protect global and environmental health. Title 40 contains guidelines for disposing of hazardous waste, including battery waste.


A flame-retardant packing material. Vermiculite is commonly used as cushioning material for lithium-ion batteries, explosives, and flammable materials.


The electrical force or pressure that causes current to flow in a circuit. Voltage is measured in volts (V).