Finland should become a model country for sustainable battery production and the circular economy
Growth of electricity powered transport increases demand for lithium batteries. Through strategic cooperation and circular economy expertise, Finland can establish itself as a leader in the battery industry.
Finland is already one of Europe’s leading suppliers of battery metals and chemicals. National actors - authorities, industry, research institutions and universities - must be activated to participate in the setting of EU battery research agenda and the related development projects in order to maximise the added value from battery raw materials to remain with Finland. Currently, production of lithium batteries is concentrated in China, Korea and Japan. The European Commission is concerned about the risks this presents to the European automobile and energy industry and is calling for new cooperation to initiate large-scale European Lithium battery production.
The CloseLoop project, run jointly by Aalto University, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Helsinki’s Consumer Society Research Centre and funded by the Academy of Finland's Strategic Research Council, has investigated the prospects of the battery industry in Finland. Active industrial policy and close cooperation between industry players is needed to develop the field. To support the government’s industrial and energy policy, and national battery/energy storage strategy should be drawn up to cover the whole lithium battery value chain. This would help to attract new investment into the Finnish battery industry and add value to battery chemicals produced from domestically sourced raw materials. The required investment for a large battery factory would come to around a billion euros.
Expansion of responsible mining operations and efficient recycling processes are needed
A central component of the strategy should be attention to environmental perspectives and compliance with circular economy principles throughout the whole value chain. Large-scale production of large batteries for use in electric cars and electrical networks is not possible without the expansion of mining and metal refining operations. This requires responsible mining operations and the use of the most environmentally friendly processes in the production of battery chemicals, cells and modules. In the structural designing of batteries, recyclability and reuse options must be considered, and efficient recycling processes must be developed. Finland already has a significant lithium battery metal and chemical production industry. The available know how could provide the foundation for building unique recycling processes. Developing a circular battery economy is one of the central research topics of the CloseLoop project.
Consideration of environmental and circular economy perspectives should become a central market strength for Finnish battery industry expertise. The skills and training needs for the whole value chain from mining operations to different applications and circular economy activities should be addressed.
Photo: Adolfo Vera