The initiative to recover high-value metals present in electric vehicles at the end of their useful life, is a primary project of Future: Fast Forward in the PERTE of Electric and Connected Vehicle (VEC)
The RELOAD project began to take its first steps last December, with the launch meeting coordinated by CETIM Technological Centre and SEAT S.A. to establish with the entire consortium the strategic lines to follow to achieve the objectives set. The meeting was attended by all the partners of the project led by the CETIM investee company ENSO Innovation: SEAT, CETIM, Técnicas Reunidas, ASAI Industrial, Balidea, University of Zaragoza and CSIC-CENIM.
In addition, a few days ago we attended the official presentation of Future: Fast Forward (F3), led by SEAT, S.A. and Volkswagen AG and beneficiary of the PERTE of Electric and Connected Vehicle. The event hosted several interactive workshops, where we could explain more details of the project that we lead RELOAD, since it is part of the F3 tractor project.
RELOAD is part of the tractor project Future: Fast Forward (F3), within the framework of the PERTE of Electric and Connected Vehicle (VEC). The Technological Centre and the automotive company have been collaborating on sustainability and circular economy since 2019. Since then, both entities have been working together on projects such as ECLIPSE, which focuses its research on new technologies for recycling and recovery of complex plastic waste. CETIM continues to be involved in driving projects that adjust to business realities and, thanks to the close collaboration of companies involved in moving towards sustainability and innovation such as SEAT S.A., the RELOAD project emerges.
The development of valuable metal recovery technologies offers the automotive industry a circular model with a smaller environmental footprint and a key tool to secure the supply of critical metals linked to economic and geopolitical tensions.
The strategic objective of RELOAD is to contribute in an efficient and safe way to the supply of high-value metals in the industrial chain of the electric vehicle, reducing dependence on imports and promoting a sustainable industrial model. The development of valuable metal recovery technologies offers the automotive industry a circular model with a smaller environmental footprint and becomes a fundamental tool to avoid problems in the supply of these critical materials, linked to economic and geopolitical tensions.
In this context, different recycling, ecodesign and industry 4.0 technologies will be investigated to recover metals of high interest present in electronic components, lithium-ion batteries and electric motors at the end of the useful life of the VEC. In this way, these metals can be reincorporated into the value chain by establishing a circular model.
CETIM, key expertise in RELOAD
The research staff that forms CETIM Technological Centre focuses the focus of the project on bioleaching processes of metals of interest also present in lithium-ion batteries, electric motors and electronic compounds of the VEC. They are also evaluating the selective recovery of metals through selective electrochemical or absorbent technologies, among others. These are key technological developments to achieve a focused recovery of the objective elements.
Additionally, CETIM studies the obtaining of a digital map containing the location and quantity of metals under study in order to facilitate their use, recovery and reuse in electronic components of the auto sector and batteries.
ENSO Innovation, a technology company owned by CETIM, leads RELOAD. Its main activity in the project revolves around the identification of the components to be disassembled, research and selection of target recognition technologies for the detection and identification of critical components, study and selection of mechanical pretreatment and establish mechanisms to mitigate the environmental and economic footprint, among other related aspects. SEAT S.A., as one of the leaders of the F3 tractor project, will determine the recovery potential of valuable metals, as well as the criticality of the parts of an electric model of the company. In addition, you will investigate advanced metallurgical processes, study the application of recycled strategic raw materials and work on obtaining a digital map containing the location and quantity of metals under study. Técnicas Reunidas will focus on the part of the project dedicated to the recovery of rare earths, studying ways of recovering materials to design recycling routes. ASAI Industrial will work on the study of the disassembly process to optimize the process, reducing costs and increasing the recycling of materials. Balidea will investigate the design of a dynamic digital model or map of metal circulation to facilitate its use, recovery and reuse. In this way it will contribute to the creation of a digital passport for electric vehicle batteries. CSIC-CENIM will study the recovery of graphite and a concentrate of rare earths present in the permanent magnets of electric motors. The University of Zaragoza will carry out an analysis of the disassemblyability and recyclability of batteries, motors and electronics, as well as their components.
In short, RELOAD uses recycling technologies, ecodesign and industry 4.0 for the recovery of high-value metals present in electric vehicles at the end of their useful life, which allows the optimization of conventional processes and significantly reduce the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, CETIM continues to face current environmental challenges with innovation as a driver of change to move towards sustainable and circular electromobility.