Honda rare earth recycle program flow chart

The supply of rare earth metals used in the manufacture of nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries and permanent magnet motors that are found in most hybrids has been somewhat uncertain the past few years, what with China's lock on the supply and its recent policy of limiting exports. While there are a number of possible solutions and workarounds, Honda is tackling the problem using an approach we can heartily endorse: recycling.

With its partner Japan Metals & Chemicals, the automaker is about to begin a program that would see the battery packs from its hybrids collected by its dealers around the globe and returned to have the rare earth recovered from the used packs. The company had previously been using a heat process to get nickel back from the batteries, but a new process can help them return about 80 percent of rare earth metals as well. The recycled materials will then be used to make more batteries, along with other parts.

Honda plans to broaden the program to include the recycling of other rare-earth containing parts in the future. Make your way past the break for the official press release.
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PRESS RELEASE

Honda to Reuse Rare Earth Metals Contained in Used Parts

As part of this effort, before the end of this month, Honda and Japan Metals & Chemicals will begin extracting rare earth metals from used nickel-metal hydride batteries collected from Honda hybrid vehicles at Honda dealers inside and outside of Japan. The new operation will be the first in the world to extract rare earth metals as part of a mass-production process at a recycling plant.

Honda had been applying a heat treatment to used nickel-metal hydride batteries and recycling nickel-containing scrap as a raw material of stainless steel. However, the successful stabilisation of the extraction process at the plant of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd. made possible the extraction of rare earth metals in a mass-production process with purity as high as that of newly mined and refined metals.

The newly established process enables the extraction of as much as above 80% of rare earth metals contained in used nickel-metal hydride batteries. Honda will strive to reuse extracted rare earth metals not only for nickel-metal hydride batteries, but also for a wide range of Honda products. Moreover, Honda will further expand the recycling of rare earth metals in the future 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.

Giving consideration to the recycling of resources used for its products, Honda has long been committed to the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) approach. For instance, Honda was the first Japanese automaker to begin sales of recycled parts and to collect/recycle oil filters and replaced bumpers. Honda will continue strengthening its network which links to the reuse and recycling of resources.