A British consortium began working on a new circular, end-of-life supply chain for the electric vehicle industry in January, with grant support from the Government’s Advanced Propulsion Centre.

The project, christened RECOVAS, brings together most of the members of Britain’s remaining automotive industry.

Under current EU law and also post Brexit, manufacturers retain responsibility for the safe disposal of electric car batteries. There are already 164,100 pure electric vehicles on Britain’s roads, with that number rising to 373,600 when plug-in hybrids are included.

The Recovas project aims to provide a standardised and reliable route for recycling and repurposing lithium ion car batteries at a scale that can cope with the expected sales of electric vehicles in the UK.

The project will run for three years, by which time the partners expect the circular supply chain to be operating commercially.

Those partners are: EMR Metal Recycling, WMG University of Warwick, three major vehicle manufacturers – Bentley Motors, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover, the Health and Safety Executive, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, Autocraft Solutions Group, Connected Energy, which repurpose electric car batteries and uRecycle, which will develop the UK’s first commercial scale recycling facility for automotive battery packs.

Remanufacturing is the process of repairing and re-engineering existing batteries in new cars. Reuse involves giving batteries a second life in stationary storage to help balance the use of the electricity grid during peak times and optimise the use of renewable energy and other applications.

The new supply chain will help all partners to triage batteries when they arrive at approved end-of-life vehicle treatment facilities across the UK for either remanufacturing, reuse or – where this is not possible – recycling.

Professor David Greenwood, chief executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, WMG, University of Warwick, said: “Delivery of end-of-life provision for electric vehicle batteries is a strategic necessity for the UK, and this project will establish its first full scale facility. Without proper provision, end of life batteries could become a major safety and environmental concern.

“This project will implement state-of-the art recycling methods to meet and exceed the requirements of the current regulations. In addition, we will conduct research into new processes which could make the recovery of a much higher proportion of the battery material economically feasible.

“In doing so we will reduce the need for mining and refining of critical materials and we will reduce the carbon footprint of future electric vehicles. WMG is delighted to be at the core of this project, and we look forward to its delivery.”

Roger Morton, managing director for technology and innovation at EMR, said: “Our aim is to create a circular supply chain for batteries and, in the process, reduce the cost for end-of-life disposal for the vehicle manufacturer or last owner of the car to zero.

“By working in partnership with the RECOVAS consortium, electric vehicle manufacturers will develop simple design changes that greatly improve the potential to remanufacture, reuse or recycle their batteries at end of life. This will help to transform the economics of the electric vehicle market.”

Ian Constance, chief executive at the APC, said: “Recycling of electric vehicle batteries is a principal part of the electric supply chain, so it’s vital that we get it right. The investment in innovative projects like RECOVAS, by EMR Metal Recycling, awarded as part of our APC 16 programme, demonstrates the importance of creativity and engineering excellence in the UK’s bid for a sustainable and commercial net-zero future.”

Developing and managing the infrastructure to process end-of-life electric vehicles and their batteries will generate new economic activity for the UK and create over 550 green jobs in the UK within the consortium members and their supply chain.

As part of the project, leading automotive manufacturers have agreed to share more information about the design and construction of their batteries, allowing the consortium to more effectively and efficiently repurpose or recycle them.

Roger Morton added: “We have a very strong electric vehicle industry in the UK and it is changing fast. RECOVAS is an essential part of the sustainable roll out of electric vehicles.”

The UK Government is supporting RECOVAS as part of a £49m investment in technologies that will help the automotive industry to go green.

The Minister for Business and Industry, Nadhim Zahawi, said the investment showed that the UK was leading the global battle against climate change.

“Backed by government funding, these trailblazing projects will help the UK to build back better by creating all-important green jobs, ensuring the sector can make further strides towards an electrified automotive future,” he said.