Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize Drives Recovery of Spent Batteries
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy recently launched the third and final phase of the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize with a virtual kickoff event to introduce the Phase III rules and voucher guidelines. Seven teams from across the United States are advancing to Phase III of the competition, which contributes to DOE’s goal to capture 90% of all spent lithium-ion batteries (LIB) for eventual recycling of critical materials and reintroduction into the supply chain.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the prize administrator for the $5.5 million phased competition. Members of NREL’s Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences and the Data Analytics Tools and Applications Center play a crucial role in executing and implementing the prize. NREL also manages the administration of non-cash voucher funds awarded to Phase II winners and used in Phase III of the prize.
Seven Teams Selected as Phase II Winners
Fourteen teams participated in Phase II of the prize, which focused on building industry partnerships to design, simulate, and prototype a proof-of-concept solution. Teams incorporated battery collection, sorting and separation, safe storage and transportation, and reverse logistics into a cohesive end-to-end solution. Winning concept innovations ranged from incentivizing consumer electronics collection to certification programs for electric vehicle batteries.
The seven Phase II winning teams are:
- Li Industries (Blacksburg, Virginia)
Li Industries is developing a machine-learning-based, automated Smart Battery Sorting System capable of accurately and efficiently sorting and separating batteries by several characteristics, including chemical composition, size, weight, and packaging type.
- OnTo Technology (Bend, Oregon)
OnTo's deactivate, identify, sort, and cut solution provides safe and efficient end-of-life processing of waste batteries by sorting LIBs by cathode chemistry.
- Powering the Future (Glendale, Wisconsin)
Clarios is leveraging the existing network of collection for lead-acid batteries to collect end-of-life (EOL) LIBs, applying innovative technologies to handle mixed EOL batteries and ultimately optimize the network's value.
- Renewance (Chicago, Illinois)
The Renewance Connect asset tracking and marketplace concept optimizes reverse logistics and recycling activities by improving access to and utilizing existing infrastructure for decommissioning, collection, warehousing, sorting, transportation, and recycling services.
- Smartville (San Diego, California)
Smartville is deploying distributed heterogeneous unifying battery (HUB) facilities to reduce costs and create value in the reverse-logistics supply chain by balancing, conditioning, and certifying LIBs before repurposing for secondary use or shipped to recyclers.
- Team Portables (Seattle, Washington)
Reward to Recycle is a consumer engagement smartphone app allowing consumers to learn how to earn a reward for recycling their battery. This app uses a digital identity to track portable LIBs and support final recycling.
- Titan Advanced Energy Solutions (Sommerville, Massachusetts)
The Battago platform will generate, aggregate, and connect battery data to create a transparent marketplace and bridge the gap between battery owners, integrators, and end-of-life recyclers.
The seven Phase II winning teams are eligible to participate in Phase III of the prize. Each receives a $357,000 cash prize and $100,000 in non-cash vouchers to use at national laboratories and approved organizations within the American-Made Challenges Network.
Real-World Application of Innovative Solutions
The bright ideas that sparked participation in Phase I are becoming comprehensive business plans built for success after the prize's conclusion. Solutions focus on real-world scenarios for the safe recovery of one or multiple LIB applications (consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and stationary storage). These concepts bridge a significant roadblock on the path to a circular economy for LIBs.
“Lithium-ion batteries are becoming more and more prevalent, from cell phones and laptops to increasing numbers of electric vehicles on the road,” said Lauren Lynch, prize administrator. “It is important to implement effective processes to recover the critical materials and avoid potentially negative impacts, environmental or otherwise.”
In Phase III of the Prize, the teams must substantially advance their end-to-end solutions and provide pilot validation of their concepts. Teams will incorporate impact modeling from Phase II to demonstrate the feasibility of their solutions. Progress made in Phase III will demonstrate how effective, efficient, and viable their concepts are when fully scaled.
Each Phase III participating team can use up to $100,000 in non-cash vouchers to further its final submission. NREL researchers join other national laboratories and industry experts, providing support to participating teams to assist in developing, testing, and validating their innovative solutions. The prize vouchers allow teams to access tools, equipment, and expertise to advance their concepts.
Up to four final winners of Phase III will be selected. Each Phase III winner will receive a cash prize of up to $2,000,000, distributed equally among the winning teams.
The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize was announced in January 2019 to complement DOE's research at the ReCell Lithium Battery Recycling R&D Center, as well as efforts to develop the next generation of advanced electric vehicle battery technologies. To learn more about the Battery Recycling Prize, please visit the American-Made Challenges Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize website.