Good practice

Saving materials and waste through battery remanufacturing

Saving materials and waste through battery remanufacturing
© Bokeh Art Photo, #141418979, 2017, source:
Energy, Materials, Waste
Premises and operation areas:
Waste and recycling
Size of company:
Medium (less than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:

Lithium-ion batteries get a second life

  • Battery-maker investigates the cost and benefits of different remanufacturing scenarios
  • Conclusion: remanufacturing of lithium-ion batteries is technically and economically viable, and offers huge potential for resource efficiency

Cegasa Portable Energy develops mobile, stationary and large-scale storage systems and batteries with a wide range of applications: railway, maritime, industrial, traffic, bikes, etc.

A study and report about the remanufacturing market in the EU, which includes a case study on Cegasa's approach to lithium-ion batteries, shows the importance of giving materials a second-life to a resource-efficient manufacturing industry. Cegasa has also taken part in an eco-innovation project to identify remanufacturing opportunities, R&D and innovation in the Basque Country.

Lithium-ion batteries are gradually replacing lead-acid batteries, which is generally seen as a positive development, but Cegasa wanted to further analyse and compare the two technologies, from a technological, economic and environmental point of view.

Cegasa analysed the degradation of the cells and the rest of the components in two types of lithium-ion batteries: Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) and Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC). And the costs of lithium-ion batteries second life was analysed. This revealed:

  • External costs: repurchase and logistics costs (packaging, storage, transport, etc.)
  • Internal costs of three recovery scenarios: 1) re-use of the battery without any modification, 2) remanufacturing starting from the module, and 3) remanufacturing starting from the cell

These scenarios showed that the first option is the most favourable from the economic point of view, but unlikely because of the low probability of finding an application with identical needs as in the first life. The second option is the most likely case as all the cells in the module behave identically and the electronic factor is eliminated. The third scenario is not feasible due to associated technical and safety problems.

Key results

The study comparing lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries also showed that, in general, lithium-ion has a higher acquisition cost but is cheaper than lead-acid if the whole life of the product is taken into account; for example, the number of times the lead battery needs to be replaced to compensate for the much higher cyclability of lithium-ion.

When a lithium-ion battery is no longer able to recover, or return to 80 % of its original capacity, it is considered exhausted. However, thanks to its better features, an 'exhausted' lithium-ion battery may still perform better than a new lead-acid battery.

The second life on lithium-ion batteries after remanufacturing creates a new business line with significant potential for a battery manufacturer like Cegasa. New products can be created which are capable of competing in the low-cost market with lower prices than the lead-acid batteries. And coupled with ecodesign principles the cost of remanufacturing can be reduced. This means the remanufacturing of lithium-ion batteries is technically and economically viable, and has a huge potential for resource efficiency, reducing the production of waste and saving materials.

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