German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz has broken ground on a new battery recycling factory in Kuppenheim, Germany, as part of its sustainable business strategy to move towards electric vehicles. The factory will cut resource consumption and establish closed-loop recycling of battery raw materials, making it a unique integrated recycling concept within a single factory in Europe.
The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Jörg Burzer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, responsible for Production & Supply Chain Management, and Michael Brecht, Chairman of the Works Council of the Gaggenau joint operation, to which the Kuppenheim plant belongs. The ceremony was also attended by Thekla Walker, Minister for the Environment, Climate Protection and Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg, and other guests of honour.
The new factory is set to ramp up the mechanical dismantling of electric vehicle batteries by the end of this year. Subject to the outcome of discussions with the public sector, a hydrometallurgy pilot plant will also be established in the coming months. The factory will have an annual capacity of 2,500 tonnes, and the recovered materials will be fed back into the recycling loop to produce more than 50,000 battery modules for new Mercedes-Benz models.
With a recycling rate of more than 96 percent, the factory will enable a true circular economy of battery materials. Mercedes-Benz is working with technology partner Primobius, a joint venture of German mechanical engineering company SMS group and Australian project developer Neometals, to develop the factory.
Mercedes-Benz is investing a double-digit million Euro amount in the construction of the balance sheet CO₂-neutral plant, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection as part of a scientific research project. The investment strengthens the role of the Kuppenheim site within the global Mercedes-Benz production network.
In a statement, Jörg Burzer said, “With a recycling rate of more than 96 percent, a ‘mine of tomorrow’ is being created here in Kuppenheim. The innovative technology approach enables us to incorporate the valuable raw materials into new Mercedes-EQ vehicles. We are consistently expanding our expertise of the battery value chain and are taking an important step in our strategy towards ‘Electric Only’. Together with our partners from industry and science, we are demonstrating the potential of Baden-Württemberg and Germany to innovate in the area of sustainable electromobility.”
Thekla Walker, Minister for the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg, said, “I am delighted that Mercedes-Benz is taking on a pioneering role with the pilot factory for battery recycling here in Kuppenheim and is consistently driving forward the topic of the circular economy. This is of particular importance in view of the limited availability of important and highly sought-after raw materials such as lithium, cobalt or nickel.”
Michael Brecht, Chairman of the Works Council of the joint operation Gaggenau, to which the Kuppenheim plant belongs, said, “With the battery recycling factory, Mercedes-Benz is gathering important know-how in the field of circular economy and is also laying the foundation for new, sustainable jobs that can be further expanded if the operation is successful.”
Mercedes-Benz is taking a holistic approach to the circular economy of battery systems, looking at three core issues: circular design, value retention, and closing the loop. During the development of a vehicle, the company creates a concept for each vehicle model in which all components and materials are analyzed for their suitability in the context of a circular economy.