Abstract Metal recovery is an essential part of the recycling of hybrid electric vehicle battery waste and the first step in a hydrometallurgical treatment is dissolution of the solid material. The properties of separated battery electrode materials were investigated. Focus was put on both the solid waste and then the dissolution behaviour. The cathode contains metallic nickel that remains undissolved when utilizing non-oxidizing conditions such as hydrochloric or sulphuric acid in combination with a low oxygen atmosphere. In these conditions the cathode active electrode material is fully dissolved. Not dissolving the nickel metal saves up to 37% of the acid consumption for the cathode electrode material. In the commonly used case of oxidizing conditions the nickel metal dissolves and a cobalt-rich phase remains undissolved from the cathode active material. For the anode material a complete and rapid dissolution can be achieved at mild conditions with hydrochloric, nitric or sulphuric acid. Optimal parameters for all cases of dissolution was pH 1 with a reaction time of approximately ⩾20,000s.