Renault in advanced talks with partners to recycle batteries, says executive

PARIS, (Reuters) – French automaker Renault is in advanced discussions with potential partners to extract and recycle lithium and other metals from used electric vehicle batteries, a company executive said, as it seeks to reuse more of the strategic raw materials.

While recycling car parts is increasingly common, Renault is aiming to be the first European automaker to also recycle batteries on an industrial scale.

“In Europe, there is currently… nobody who can claim to recycle used batteries in a closed-loop to reproduce nickel, cobalt and lithium to make new batteries,” said Jean-Philippe Bahuaud, chief executive of ‘The Future Is Neutral’ (TFIN), Renault’s environment unit.

Discussions with specialist companies who can partner on the recycling are at an “advanced” stage, he said in an interview ahead of the ChangeNOW conference in Paris this week.

Most of the metals used in batteries that power EVs are mined and processed outside Europe, and there are growing concerns about the region’s heavy reliance on China for the materials.

There are also significant cost-savings to be made from recovering the metals, which account for as much as 70% of a battery’s cost. Batteries, in turn, represent up to 40% of the vehicle’s cost.

Miner Eramet is also planning to build a battery recycling facility with waste company Suez at northern French port Dunkirk to start operations next year. A final investment decision is still pending.

A pioneer in electric vehicles with partner Nissan last decade, Renault has been overtaken by Tesla and several Chinese brands.

However its Renault and Dacia brands are still among the leading brands in Europe’s EV market.

In April it will stop production of new vehicles at its Flins factory to the west of Paris, and shift completely to production of partially recycled car components and reconditioned vehicles.

Bahuaud expects Flins to repair 9,000 batteries this year.

Renault sells the batteries and other reconditioned parts such as electric engines and chargers at a 30% discount to new products.

The TFIN business is targetting sales of 2.3 billion euros ($2.49 billion)and an operating margin of more than 10% by 2030.

($1 = 0.9227 euros)

Reporting by Gilles Guillaume. Additional reporting Gus Trompiz. Writing by Dominique Patton, Editing by Alexandra Hudson