No two days are the same for Clémence Siret. As head of eco-design at Saft, one day she might be addressing the World Economic Forum as an industry representative, the next she’s working on lifecycle assessments of the metals Saft uses in its batteries.
“Batteries will power the future, so I need to be up to date on the latest science when it comes to the metals we use and new environmental regulations all over the world,” she says.
Much of her work centers around environmental considerations, from manufacturing through to recycling, trying to ensure Saft’s batteries have the smallest possible footprint while still meeting customers’ technical expectations.
“We design for recycling to the best of our ability,” says Siret. “Take lithium-ion batteries. We know that glue makes it harder to dismantle spent batteries, so we try wherever possible to select other fastening solutions to ensure mechanical integrity . This is important because the regulatory requirements regarding recycling efficiency and material recovery are always increasing, so we need to be able to reclaim as much material as easily as we can.”
“Batteries will power the future, so I need to be up to date on the latest science when it comes to the metals we use and new environmental regulations all over the world”Clémence Siret Eco-Design Manager
Recycling from beginning to end
The materials used in Saft’s battery manufacturing are also chosen with their environmental impact in mind. She explains that the company has access to a database where in-house designers can check how much energy has been used making each kilogram of material, be that cable or plastic casing. And she’s always looking for interesting new technologies:
“Saft recently evaluated a small sample of a new bio source of a nickel compound,” she says. It came from plants that take up nickel concentrates from the soil by their roots, typically on former industrial land. “I’m not sure it will be a future source for us, but it’s worth looking at everything,” she adds.
When it comes to the end of a battery lifecycle, Saft has its own plant at Oskarshamn, Sweden, that recycles nickel-cadmium batteries; for other batteries it works with licensed recycling partners worldwide, which are regularly audited.
“We have a responsibility to ensure our batteries have the smallest possible impact on the environment and we reuse whatever we can,” says Siret. “For our direct customers of nickel-based batteries, we have a free recycling service with bring back points all over the world, and we collaborate with the customers of our OEMs wherever we can. This work is really valuable and it’s important to get it right.”