We are in Dieuze in the Moselle region of France. On a site spanning one and a half hectares, Veolia’s subsidiary Euro Dieuze Industrie (EDI) processes between 5,000 and 6,000 metric tons of used batteries and portable accumulators (remote controls, telephones and smartphones, etc.) each year, i.e. 40% of the items collected on the French market. This collection is carried out by European eco-friendly waste management bodies as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme. However, the Moselle site, which was established in 1993 and has a staff of around thirty, has many other ambitions and is currently focusing specifically on the highly promising electric vehicle battery market.
A scientific and commercial partnership
Veolia's subsidiary Euro Dieuze Industrie (EDI)
Both determined to accelerate their innovation programs, EDI and Renault set in motion a scientific and commercial cooperative project in 2011. Its scope covers the processing and recovery of used electric vehicle batteries. Denis Foy, EDI’s Director since 2012, summarizes the situation. “We saw the domestic battery market, which had already been highly regulated for several years, reach maturity. Hence the idea of investing in research and development to ensure levers for growth.” The development of this new business line allows EDI to kill two birds with one stone. It prevents toxic materials from being released into the natural environment. And it recycles a large share of the many precious metals found in an electric car battery. Copper, aluminum, cobalt, nickel, manganese and lithium are given a second lease of life in new industrial applications. For example, in metallurgy, for the creation of steel or specific alloys that will serve as the basis for a host of products: sheet metals, tools, special steels, etc. Also in chemical sectors such as the manufacture of metal salts, copper and cobalt sulfates, etc., where they will be precursors in multiple applications: glasswork, batteries, inks, electrochemistry, etc. Finally, with regard to lithium, the aim is to obtain a high-purity lithium carbonate that could be a precursor for the manufacture of new Li-ion batteries. “Bearing in mind that the Holy Grail for us would be to return the recovered materials to their original sector, namely the automobile industry,” states Denis Foy. Being chosen in 2013 as part of the French government’s Future Investments program gave the project a significant boost. This recognition from the State allowed the Moselle site to develop its electric vehicle battery dismantling and recycling line on an industrial scale. EDI is already able to recover some 6,000 used batteries per year. The challenge was considerable. Knowledge of the upstream and downstream channels, a thorough grasp of the regulatory issues at stake linked to hazardous waste treatment, non-dissemination of toxic substances into the natural environment, demanding processes: all this indispensable know-how must be brought to bear in dismantling car batteries, each of which can weigh up to 300 kilograms. “For example, we have to manage extremely high voltages, reaching up to several hundred volts, within the framework of totally safe operations,” illustrates Denis Foy, describing the first step in the process.
“The Holy Grail for us would be to return the recovered materials to their original sector, namely the automobile industry.”
Denis Foy, Director of Euro Dieuze Industrie
The process follows a clearly determined course. Once the diagnosis has been made and the safety measures taken by gradually reducing the battery’s voltage, the component and cell deconstruction and grinding phase begins. Then EDI’s highly specific expertise comes into play. It draws on a cold hydrometallurgical process to treat the residue and extract recyclable metals from it. To date, refiners remain the leading buyers of these recovered metals. “Some of the most strategic metals could see their cost soar as they become increasingly rare. Under these conditions, we might expect that in the future industrialists will look to secure their supply of these metals by buying them directly from the resource recovery sectors,” anticipates Denis Foy.
Thanks to these innovative high-performance industrial facilities, Denis Foy is calm and confident about the site’s future. The electric vehicle market, which remains small in comparison to total car sales, is finally taking off in France. Which should ensure a bright future ahead for Euro Dieuze Industrie.
RE-B-LIVE: State support for the circular economy
Over a three-year period, the developments made to the Dieuze site enjoyed support from the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) to the sum of 1.1 million euros (out of a total of 3.3 million) in the form of subsidies and repayable advances. The challenge for the French government is to be able to encourage the emergence of a competitive car battery recycling and recovery sector, in line with the requirements of European Batteries directive 2006/66/CE.
Euro Dieuze Industrie
- € 5 million/year revenue
- A 40% market share of domestic battery processing in France
- The capacity to process 6,000 car batteries/year
- 130,000 metric tons: estimated battery processing market by 2030
In Europe 50% of car batteries and accumulators must be recycled, according to directive 2006/66/CE.
274,000 personal and commercial all-electric vehicles registered between 2012 and the end of June 2016, i.e. almost 100,000 metric tons of batteries on the roads (Source: AVERE France www.avere-france.org)