Honda recycles rare earths


Honda Motor Co. says it has developed a method to collect rare-earth minerals from nickel-hydrogen batteries in hybrid vehicles for reuse in new batteries.

Purity of at least 99 percent of the collected rare-earth elements was achieved, almost the same as the level for mined and refined rare-earth minerals, the major Japanese automaker said Sunday.

The use of recycled rare earths will not raise battery production costs very much, the automaker added.

Rare-earth minerals will be collected from used nickel-hydrogen batteries at Japan Metals & Chemicals Co.’s Oguni Works in Yamagata Prefecture.

Japan Metals raises the purity of collected rare-earth minerals through the processes of burning, dissolving with acid and melting by heat.

Oguni Works can handle 1,000 vehicle batteries a month, collecting 80 percent of the rare-earth minerals in them.

Later this week, the Oguni plant will start shipping to battery makers neodymium, a rare earth, extracted from the batteries of 386 vehicles that remained unsold due to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Honda will also use its overseas sales network mainly in the U.S. and Europe to speed up the collection of used hybrid vehicle batteries. It also aims to recycle rare-earth minerals used in motors.