Li-Cycle is pleased to announce the release of a corporate video, highlighting our journey in addressing the growing opportunity and challenge of lithium-ion battery recycling.
In order to slow and reverse the effects of climate change, we evidently need to transition away from a carbon-based economy. Electrification and storing energy using li-ion batteries are key parts of that puzzle. But what will happen to millions of li-ion batteries when they die? Li-Cycle CEO and Co-Founder, Ajay Kochhar, poses this question at the start of the video.
Fade in Productions visited our team to film Li-Cycle Technology™ – our validated, patent-pending and environmentally friendly recycling solution for li-ion batteries. The technology has successfully produced battery-grade chemicals from spent li-ion batteries of all chemistries and formats. These enduring products can be directly reintroduced to the li-ion battery supply chain, or in the broader economy.
Li-ion batteries are used in a variety of applications due to the high electrochemical potential of lithium, enabling their application for electro-mobility. The substantial investment in li-ion batteries continues to result in rapidly decreasing unit costs. As a result, li-ion batteries are increasingly being leveraged in stationary energy storage systems. Intermittent renewable power sources such as wind (e.g. the wind farm shown at 01:20 near Shelburne, Ontario, Canada) and solar continue to be enabled by low cost li-ion battery storage.
Kochhar explains that today, only 5% of spent li-ion batteries reach recycling facilities globally. The remaining 95% often reach landfills or are dangerously stockpiled in many cases. Smelting followed by refining is the currently best available technology for recycling li-ion batteries. These processes, however, often have unprofitable unit economics, cannot recover lithium economically, and are limited by maximum recycling efficiencies of 30-40%.
Spent li-ion batteries continue to pose strong threats to health and safety due to the potential for toxic heavy metals to be released into the environment if disposed in landfills or recycled by artisanal/small-scale operations. A short clip in the video (at 00:38), courtesy of Battery Council International, shows an actual explosion that occurred at a lead acid battery recycling facility when a li-ion battery was mistakenly fed to the operation. This near-miss highlights the dangers of improper battery handling techniques and consequences that could result from even a single li-ion battery falling into the wrong recycling stream. As the spent li-ion battery volume surges due to large format applications (e.g. in electric vehicles), rapidly growing challenges with the safety of spent li-ion battery handling must be addressed through advanced supply chains.
As the world moves towards an all-electric future for vehicles, the demand for lithium, cobalt, and other raw battery materials is also growing to unprecedented levels. Lithium chemical supply continues to lag behind surging demand, driven by battery applications for lithium. Other critical battery materials, such as cobalt chemicals, continue to experience supply chain challenges. Over 60% of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Cobalt production in the DRC has been documented to involve child labour, raising questions about supply chain transparency and social responsibility. Li-Cycle has a significant opportunity to be a near-term supplier of uniquely 100% recycled cobalt, with a completely transparent and ethical supply chain.
To solve these unaddressed needs, Li-Cycle is rapidly executing based on a three-step Master Plan:
- Step 1: development of an integrated pilot plant to further scale up Li-Cycle Technology™ and prepare for commercial operations
- Step 2: development of a first commercial plant with a recycling capacity of 5,000 tonnes of spent li-ion batteries/year
- Step 3: development of substantially larger commercial operations located strategically around the world, recycling 25,000 to 250,000 tonnes/year of spent li-ion batteries per facility
Li-Cycle is on a mission to revolutionize the battery recycling industry with a technology that enables up to 100% battery chemical recovery and raw materials, leaving no landfilled waste. In turn, Li-Cycle aims to enable the momentum behind the global transition to electro-mobility and reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide