Peter Coonen has spent all of his professional life somehow related to the battery business
– When I graduated from university, I started working for Panasonic batteries. There I moved through the ranks and ended up as CEO for Panasonic consumer batteries in Europe with a seat on the board of the global Panasonic battery company in Japan. That was in the time Japan was in the lead in most fields. In Europe they were just making consumer batteries – the ones you buy in a consumer market. In Japan and China, they were also making the batteries for example used in Tesla’s – those used in your computer and Ipad’s. That gave me access to all kinds of batteries, says Coonen.
Bebat – the Belgium version of Batteriretur
About twenty five years ago Coonen helped create the Belgium version of Batteriretur and ever since that time he’s been on the board of that organization. Most of the time as Chairman, but when there was an opening for general manager, doing the actual work, he made a shift.
– I went from international work to a local Belgium company. We created a sorting center. It was a nice change for me looking back, says Coonen.
Eucobat – the European association of national collection schemes for batteries
A few years after Bebat was created, Eucobat was formed, an organization that brought all the local collection companies in Europe together. Batteriretur was one of the companies active from the very beginning.
– That’s when we created a relationship with Batteriretur. They also sorted batteries. We’ve shared knowledge and experiences ever since, says Coonen.
Reneos – the European corporation for the field of electrical vehicles
About two years ago Bebat and Batteriretur started talking about a formalized European corporation for the field of electrical vehicles. It ended up in a company called Reneos, where both Batteriretur and Bebat are shareholders, together with Stibat in Holland, GRS Batterien in Germany and Cobat in Italy.
– Reneos is a company that offers a full range of services: legal compliance, logistics, storage, recycling, second life and more. It is an online platform where you, as a car dealer, can go online and say that you have a battery ready for pickup, and Reneos will come pick it up, and handle everything from there on. The car dealer then has one point of contact, one invoice and so on, says Coonen.
The market for electrical vehicles will be huge in comparison to the traditional battery market
Belgium has very few electrical vehicles compared to Norway. All the car manufacturers are members of Bebat, and so are 3600 customers from other fields, like SONY, Hitatchi, Apple etc.
-Already in 2019 the figures of all the batteries put on to the market in Belgium for computers, portable telephones, remote controls, clocks, whatever you buy in the supermarkets, and even included bicycle batteries, – that figure was smaller than the weight of the batteries in electrical vehicles, says Coonen and adds:
– So when you look at the market for electrical vehicles, it will be huge in comparison to the traditional battery market.
The importance of transparency from the cradle-to-cradle
In most countries in Europe the importer of a battery in for example, a computer will pay for handling of the end-of-life-of the battery before he sells the computer. He will pay something to Batteriretur, or Bebat, or another collector company in Germany or Italy and so on. If that computer comes back one year later or three years later the recycling for the second life has been paid.
– In most countries in Europe it takes in average 5 to 7 years for batteries to come back. For the car battery it takes about 12 years. By that time the recycling technology may have changed 100%. So it requires a different business model – and all of us have to get used to that. But in order to have that transparency is essential, says Coonen. – Transparency will benefit the environment, it will benefit the manufacturer, and it will benefit the consumers. Because you know what you’re doing with the batteries at all steps. If you can identify the battery, and read the BMS (battery management system) that will be valuable also for giving the battery a ‘second life’.
‘Second life’ for electrical car batteries
In a circular economy one tries to keep the recources in circularity as long as possible. Batteriretur has already made second life use of electrical batteries. In five years from now, there will be many electrical batteries available for a possible ‘second life’.
– For regular batteries so far, we have been able to collect as many as possible, and recycle them as best as possible to get back as many raw materials as possible. In the future there will be a very important ‘new life step’. Batteriretur is really a pioneer in that, they have made their own system to measure batteries and to decide good/non-good second life. In Belgium we are supporting many initiatives. There are university students that have projects on that, there are small start-ups doing that, and you see that there is not just one – there are many. Whether there is Colleges or Universities, or start-ups or major multi nationals – It is all over. And this will with no doubt end up in very good second life solutions for the future, says Coonen.
Bebat’s work in Belgium – 90% collection efficiency
Every two years Bebat, together with the regional government in Belgium, check 5000 garbage bags, open them up and see how many batteries there are inside.
– That gives us a figure of 90% collection efficiency by now, says Coonen.
Coonen explains that the reason their collection efficiency is so high is due to good cooperation with the distribution, municipal recycling centers, industrial customers and that they are active in schools.
– They have helped us very much, especially in the beginning years. Schools were our best collecting channels. And we have done a few other things that really have worked well. We have distributed small boxes to every household in Belgium where people can collect their batteries and not throw them in the dustbin. And we distribute small bags twice a year for people to empty their box and bring the batteries back to a collection point. That really seems to work well. It has become a habit for many people now, says Coonen.
Exchange of know-how between Europe collection organizations
Coonen expresses that in order to collect, sort and recycle as many batteries as possible, and give a ‘second life’ to used batteries from electrical vehicles, sharing of know-how is important. Eucobat provides for a platform for co-operation and exchange of information and best practices, in order to optimize the effectiveness of the operations of the member organizations.
– At Eucobat we exchange know-how. We have organized 2 or 3 conferences where countries that have particular know-hows in a certain field explain how they are doing something to all the other countries, says Coonen.
Batteriretur is well known for their pioneering work
Coonen is impressed by Batteriretur and explains that their knowledge on sorting the batteries, measuring the batteries, matching the batteries for future use, recycling and using environmentally friendly energy, is pioneer work.
– They are ahead of the curve in many fields – and one of the most active in the new fields. I am very happy that Fredrik Andresen joined the board of Eucobat exactly for that reason. Batteriretur have developed in the last 6-7 years. They have coped really well with the inflow of the e-mobility matrix. They have started a sorting operation for regular batteries and are now getting involved in the operation of recycling for the future. The way they pioneer actually measuring the batteries they get from the e-mobility is great. They will be pioneers in the second-life applications. And the know-how they have built up in just a couple of years is amazing. The speed at which our business is changing is enormous. To have a boat powered by battery, electrical busses and electrical cars. That is all relatively new. And Batteriretur is already in the midst of all this – very active. They are a very active part of the transition to a more circular economy. In so many fields Batteriretur is not only having the ideas, but also doing it, says Coonen.