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CircuBAT Improves the Environmental Footprint of E-Mobility

Author: Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne

The CircuBAT research project aims to close the cycle of the production, use and recycling of lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles. For this purpose, seven Swiss research institutions, including Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne, and 24 different companies are collaborating to find optimization potential to ensure more sustainability at every stage of a battery’s life cycle. The project is part of the newly launched flagship initiative of the funding agency Innosuisse. Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne is contributing to the project with the Swiss Battery Technology Center. The research focus is in the area of removing and recovering parts.

Electric vehicles are central to climate-friendly mobility. The part of the vehicle that offers the most potential for further reducing the environmental footprint throughout the entire life cycle is its powerhouse – the battery. This is where CircuBAT comes in. The goal of the newly launched research project is to establish a circular business model for lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles over the course of the next four years. “This reduces the environmental impact of electric vehicles, provides additional storage for the energy transition and saves resources,” says project manager Andrea Vezzini from the Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH.

Collaboration between the Worlds of Business and Science 
The BFH is the Leading House in the CircuBAT project. A further six Swiss research institutions are involved in the project: the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), the Centre Suisse d’Électronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM), the University of St.Gallen (HSG), the Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). A total of 24 companies from business and industry are also involved, from materials specialists and manufacturing companies to users and suppliers of electric vehicles. Thanks to this collaboration between science and business, the project covers every stage in the life cycle of a battery, and the research findings can be tested in practice directly. 

CircuBAT is one of 15 projects whose application to Innosuisse – Swiss Innovation Agency was approved as part of the first call for proposals in the flagship initiative. The initiative will promote systemic innovations in areas that are relevant for a large section of the economy and society and aim to create solutions for current and future challenges that affect various stakeholders – challenges that can only be overcome through their cooperation. 

Optimization in All Areas 
The CircuBAT project aims to find solutions to improve the sustainability of lithium-ion batteries at every stage of their life cycle. This includes extending the life span of the battery for its first use. The researchers aim to achieve this goal by developing optimized charging and discharging strategies, as well as with new concepts for battery construction that make repairs easier. Another idea is to use batteries as stationary energy storage devices following their first use in an electric vehicle. As part of the project, research is therefore being carried out into how these energy storage devices can be ideally integrated at a local level and how safe and efficient operation can be ensured. The researchers are also looking for solutions for demanufacturing and material recovery to allow large quantities of high-quality secondary raw materials to be used in the production of new batteries. In addition to these technical questions, the project is also looking at socioeconomic aspects and analyzing holistic business models. This means that CircuBAT will make a significant contribution to the decarbonization of mobility in Switzerland and the use of renewable energy.