The manufacturing, use, re-use and recycling of batteries have a lot of challenges. The need for a clean sustainable process for the entire cradle to cradle battery lifecycle requires redesign of the fabrication and distribution process, and yet we will surely experience that the battery design will continue to change for years to come. Already now, we see a wide range of types (cylindrical, prismatic, pouch), sizes and usage executions (single, module, packs). Going forward further experimentation will continue to provide us with new materials that increase the performance of the battery and the machine it drives.

These developments affect one another and necessitates that individual battery cells will be uniquely identified. Track and trace is not only important to monitor the individual performance of each battery to improve further developments. Since the variety of batteries is increasing fast, we will face issues in the recycling process when having to retrieve the valuable basic materials. For that, we need to know which materials are in each battery and how we can recycle these in the most economical and sustainable way.

The production of batteries is ramping up exponentially and the recycling of batteries will follow on large scale after approximately 8 years. To manage the recycling process and secure sustainable delivery of basic materials for new batteries, there is an urgent need to arrange traceability of individual battery cells now. The process of identification and serialization of individual products is already known from other industries like the pharmaceutical sector.

To introduce traceability within battery manufacturing there are still some major developments needed to take place. Standardization of sizes and applied materials are not that common as in industries where it is already fully implemented, and we are still struggling to set up more automated processes in the battery production. Furthermore, the combination of data mining for other purposes like safety, battery performance improvement in the vehicle and other purposes, need track and trace solutions on a higher level. The complexity of the linking of performance data back to the individual battery cell is a complicated challenge, which we not have seen yet in other industries.
If we zoom in on the battery manufacturing line where the battery cell is produced, controlling traceability is important also within additional processes such as conveying, palletizing, labelling and testing. However the conveying at bigger plants is more effective in mass compared with transporting single products in line. There the traceability of individual cells becomes even more a challenge. And there it doesn’t stop since the battery cells find their ways in vehicles not only as single cell, but also in modules and/or packs. Besides the performance of the individual cell also the performance of the group (in a pack or module), needs to be traceable.
Individual and group battery track & trace solutions need to be developed to accomplish the best of both worlds: economical manufacturing and tracking during the whole life time of battery cells until the recycling process.