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The Challenge: An increase of lithium-ion batteries is headed for US recyclers

The use of lithium-ion batteries has increased in recent years, starting with electronics and expanding into many applications, including the growing electric and hybrid vehicle industry. But, the technologies to optimize recycling of these batteries have not kept pace.

What We Deliver: The first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center

The launch of ReCell, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office’s (VTO) first advanced battery recycling R&D center, will help enable the United States to compete in a global recycling industry and also reduce our reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

The Vehicle Technologies Office sees an opportunity to reduce the financial risks of recycling lithium-ion and future batteries and thus help accelerate the growth of a profitable recycling market for spent electric vehicle (EV), electronics, and stationary storage batteries. This can be done by developing novel recycling technologies to make lithium-ion battery recycling cost-effective by using less energy-intensive processing methods and capturing more valuable forms of materials for direct reuse in batteries.

Accelerating and advancing industry adoption of recycling will help meet DOE Vehicle Technologies Office goals of pushing down the cost of EV battery packs for consumers and increasing the use of domestic sources of recycled battery materials. These recycled materials can be use in new batteries, helping to drive down the overall production cost of electric vehicle batteries to the national goal of $80/kWh or under.

The Impact: Reduce the cost of EV batteries

The lithium-ion battery recycling methods being used today are hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processes. These processes, though effective, only enable the recovery of specific metals, and in material forms that are of low value to battery manufacturers. To make lithium-ion recycling profitable, without charging disposal fees to consumers, and to encourage industry growth, new recycling methods need to be developed.

The ReCell Center places a lot of attention on developing a new recycling process known as direct recycling. Direct recycling is the recovery, regeneration, and reuse of battery components directly without breaking down the chemical structure. By maintaining the process value in the original battery components, a lower-cost re-constituted material can be supplied to battery manufacturers. This will in turn help reduce the cost of EV batteries and drive up the value in recycling EV batteries.

The ReCell Center is a collaboration of researchers from industry, academia, and national laboratories that will test new techniques to drive the development of the direct recycling process as well as other areas that will increase the value of recycling. There are four focus areas that the Center emphasizes. These are: Direct Cathode Recycling, Recovery of Other Materials, Design for Recycle, and Modeling and Analysis. The Center also utilizes Crosscutting Activities that benefit the Center’s efforts more broadly.

The Center’s research and development projects are evaluated using Argonne’s EverBatt model. This model evaluates the techno-economic and environmental impacts of each stage of a battery’s life, including recycling. The output from this model allows the Center to compare developing processes to existing ones and to production of virgin materials. The most promising new recycling processes will be demonstrated at pilot scale at the ReCell Center, based at Argonne National Laboratory. Validated processes and designs will be licensed to industry for commercialization

Funding for this program is through the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office with support from Samuel Gillard, Steven Boyd, and David Howell.



Tackling the world’s most pressing and complex science problems, requires the world’s leading research tools. The ReCell Center will leverage a unique suite of state-of-the art research facilities at DOE national laboratories to drive advances in battery life-cycle development and recycling. These facilities provide access to top-tier experts from across the globe as well as, often, one-of-a-kind tools for scale up, prototyping, validation, testing, characterization, modeling and analysis.

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The ReCell Center includes a core collaboration of three national laboratories and three universities, all with a long history of successful battery research and development. A suite of industry partners will bring expertise from all points along the battery supply chain, including battery manufacturers, automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), recycling centers, battery lifecycle management services and material suppliers.

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Recycling of lithium-ion batteries has failed to materialize into a sustainable, profitable market as occurred with the recycling of lead-acid batteries, which are used for different applications. This is because lithium-ion batteries have a larger variety of materials and chemistries, many still evolving, and more complex structures. The R&D done at the center aims to reduce the risk-to-reward ratio industry faces in expanding lithium-ion recycling programs.

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