July 2, 2019 – Tania Herrea
For EVs to be sustainable and green, battery recycling is key.
But how does the recycling market do right now? Ajay Kochhar, CEO of Li-Cycle, said only a handful of companies are involved in the recovery of materials. Most of the companies in that business only recover cobalt while some just pass the batteries along and pay other companies to deal with the
BNamericas: What is the purpose of your company?
Kochhar: Li-Cycle was founded three years ago. At the time, demand for lithium-ion batteries and the critical energy metals that comprise these batteries were beginning to grow rapidly, and the pressing question we sought to answer was how to effectively recover the valuable metals from these batteries when they reach end of life.
The incumbent technology at the time typically processed lithium-ion batteries via high temperature i.e., pyrometallurgical processes (smelting). This technique is incapable of recovering lithium, and recovery rates [of other metals] are limited to approximately 40%.
Based on our initial analysis of the industry at the time, it became apparent that enormous amounts of resources were dedicated to produce lithium that never made it back into the supply chain. Since digging into it, there’s a whole set of issues around this. The first obstacle we encountered was the challenge associated with recovering critical metals from lithium-ion batteries themselves. But the bigger baseline issue was: lithium batteries are hazardous materials and must be handled, transported and stored according to specific regulations and guidelines in order to ensure the health and safety of all personnel involved in the process.
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