Mapping the European reverse logistics of electric vehicle batteries
Sammanfattning: Lithium ion batteries enable the implementation of renewable energy and electric vehicles, both of which are crucial for the transition to a sustainable society. Due to environmental, economic and political reasons, these batteries must be recycled efficiently. Most lithium ion batteries are placed on the market in electric vehicles, which are reaching end-of-life at an exponential pace, prompting the need to rapidly develop an efficient reverse supply chain of electric vehicle batteries. Due to the market speed, the complex ecosystem of actors and regulations and the inherent dangerous properties of lithium ion batteries, this reverse supply chain is still in its infancy and yet to be well understood. The purpose of this thesis was to conglomerate the knowledge in the literature and among the field experts, to map out the current state of the reverse supply chain of electric vehicle batteries and identify gaps of information and understanding. The goal was to illuminate which aspects to consider when strategically deploying a lithium ion battery pretreatment plant in Europe by answer the following research questions. 1. Which aspects influence the European logistics of end-of-life electric vehicle batteries transported for recycling today and how may these change in the near to mid-term future? 2. How do these aspects influence the strategical deployment of lithium ion pretreatment plants in Europe to facilitate efficient entry to recycling streams? First, this study carries out an in-depth literature research to identify the public knowledge gaps. Secondly, these knowledge gaps were answered through qualitative, semi-structured interviews with 22 market experts from all parts of the return logistics. The research was commissioned by Northvolt and the research was mainly carried out during the development of their pilot pretreatment plant. By analysing the findings from the interviews and leveraging knowledge from the literature research, a uniquely detailed map of the EV battery return flow was developed. The map includes the actors and stakeholders as well as the key aspects, events and processes and was divided into the natural and the unnatural return flow, which in turn were divided into multiple smaller return flows. The maps may advice a strategical deployment of a recycling pretreatment plant and, finally, the key takeaways were: 1. The need for increased traceability 2. The need for clearer and better enforced regulations for storage and transportation 3. A transparent secondary market could enable better sourcing for repurposing and recycling.
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