Fortum says it has developed a new way to recycle lithium from rechargeable batteries.

Lithium is one of the most valuable components in lithium-Ion batteries, but Finland-based Fortum says there has been difficulty in recovering it and making it available quickly enough to meet the rising demand for batteries to power the drive towards electric vehicles.  

Fortum has now patented technology for a new recovery method to reduce the environmental impact of recycling lithium.

The company also hopes environmentally concerned consumers will factor in the importance of vehicle batteries containing sustainable lithium when it comes to buying electric vehicles and cars. 

"This is a major development which will help meet and drive the massive demand for electric cars," said Fortum head of Business Line, Batteries, Tero Holländer.

"With our new patented technology, we are able to recover lithium from EV batteries in a more sustainable way, but we will also have the capabilities to produce battery grade material on an industrial scale." 

Fortum's news comes after the UK government recently announced plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2030. 

"The reclamation of lithium and other elements from recycled sources supplements the mining of scarce metals, improving the sustainability aspects of EV production and lowering the CO2 footprint of batteries produced," added Holländer.

"Our new technology means we are sure to position Europe and especially Finland as one of the most competitive and sustainable options for battery material recycling and production in the world." 

Fortum maintains there are few working, economically and sustainably viable technologies for recycling most of the materials in lithium-ion batteries, especially outside the Asian continent.  

The global lithium-ion battery recycling market was worth around EUR1.3bn (US$1.5bn) in 2019, but is expected to increase in the coming years to more than EUR20bn.

In 2019, Fortum announced it had achieved a recycling rate of more than 80% for lithium-Ion battery materials with a low-CO2 hydrometallurgical recycling process to recover cobalt, nickel and manganese.

Fortum operates a hydrometallurgical recycling facility in Harjavalta, Finland, which is able to operate on an industrial scale.