Honda to Recycle Rare Earth Metals from Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries in World’s First Mass Production Process

The circular reasoning behind the Honda battery recycling plan appears sound.

Honda Motor Co.,  and the Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., today jointly announced a process to extract rare earth metals from various components in Honda products. Before month end, the Japanese-based companies will begin extracting rare earth metals from old nickel-metal hydride batteries from Honda hybrid vehicles. The new operation is said to be the first in the world to extract rare earth metals in with a mass-production process at a recycling plant.

Rare earth metals are in high demand and short supply. Since they are critical for the production of electric motors, demand will grow as the production of hybrids and EVs increase at automakers. Right now China controls 90% of the world’s supply of rare earth metals, and exports are tightly regulated.

Honda previously had been applying a heat treatment to used nickel-metal hydride batteries and then recycling nickel-containing scrap as a raw material for stainless steel. Now, the successful stabilization of the extraction process at a Japan Metals plant makes possible the extraction of rare earth metals with what’s said to be purity as high as that of newly mined and refined metals.

Honda claims the extraction of at least 80% of rare earth metals contained the batteries. Honda said it would reuse extracted rare earth metals not only for new nickel-metal hydride batteries, but also in a wide range of Honda products. Moreover, Honda will further expand the recycling of rare earth metals, as the newly established process enables the extraction of rare earth metals from a variety of used parts in addition to nickel-metal hydride batteries.

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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