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Recycling process of rare earth metals from Ni-MH batteries proposed by Honda

Version française Car Engineer

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. established the world’s first process* to reuse rare earth metals extracted from nickel-metal hydrid batteries for new nickel-metal hydrid batteries.

So far, Honda has been extracting an oxide containing rare earth metals from used nickel-metal hydrid batteries at the plant of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd. (JMC). Now, by applying molten salt electrolysis to this oxide, Honda has succeeded in extracting metallized rare earth that can be used directly as negative-electrode materials for nickel-metal hydrid batteries. The rare earth metals extracted in this process has a purity of more than 99% which is as high as that of ordinary traded, newly mined rare earth metals. In addition, the new process enables the extraction of as much as above 80% of rare earth metals contained in nickel-metal hydrid battery.

Under the newly established process, the extracted rare earth metals will be supplied from JMC to a battery manufacturer in early March, which will reuse them as negative-electrode materials for nickel-metal hydrid batteries for hybrid vehicles. This time, the rare earth metals were extracted from nickel-metal hydrid batteries collected from 386 Honda hybrid vehicles that were stored prior to being on sale but became unusable by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Further, as soon as a sufficient volume is secured, Honda will begin applying the same process and recycle rare earth metals extracted from used nickel-metal hydrid batteries collected by Honda dealers through battery replacement.

Honda's process for recycling nickel-metal hydride batteries

Honda strives to extract rare earth metals not only from nickel-metal hydrid batteries but also from various used parts to achieve the further recycling of limited and precious resources. Honda will remain committed to reduce the environmental footprint of the mobility society as a whole by developing fuel-efficient vehicles including hybrid vehicles, and also by strengthening networks which lead to the reuse and recycling of Honda products.

* Based on the Honda internal research

Source: Honda Motors
Romain’s opinion:

This process is not only a matter of environmental policy, but also a mean to value used cars in the best way. I think that through this process, Honda will manage to reduce a bit the original battery cost, which will lead to cheaper hybrid vehicles and then potentially increased market shares. Do you know is the value of recycled rare earth metals is the same as the one of genuine metals?