December 9, 2021
Original blog published in Energy Storage Association
A renewable energy transition is underway and will continue to roll out over the coming years, roughly between now and 2040. This transition represents a real opportunity for economies to redefine innovations for a more sustainable future. One such notable innovation is vehicle electrification.
A common factor of this electrification are the batteries that power these electric vehicles (EVs). According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there could be 145 million EVs on the road by 2030. As the sales of EVs continue to surge, so too will the volumes of spent lithium-ion batteries. As the primary energy source for EVs, Li-ion batteries are a key component of our clean energy future.
However, the materials required in these EVs – cobalt, lithium, nickel, and more – are often associated with pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and human rights concerns. By using technologies developed in Canada, Li-Cycle believes it can address many of these pressing environmental concerns by creating a sustainable full-service solution that will prevent tens of thousands of tonnes of Li-ion batteries from entering landfills, resulting in a closed-loop battery supply chain.
Li-Cycle’s Spoke & Hub Technologies™ can break down batteries used in any device – including the larger EV batteries – and can recover up to 95% of the materials inside. End-of-life batteries and battery scrap – which is waste generated in battery cell manufacturing – are first taken to Li-Cycle’s Spoke facilities where they are broken down through a submerged shredding process. The shredding process produces plastics, copper, aluminum, and “black mass”, a powder substance which contains lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other metals. Li-Cycle’s Hub facilities will then take the black mass through a hydrometallurgical circuit, or “wet chemistry” recycling process, and convert it into battery-grade materials. From there, the battery-grade materials can be sold to battery cell manufacturers and their supply chain.
In just five years, Li-Cycle has grown from an idea to a commercially operating company. Now publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, with an aggressive expansion plan in place, this proud Canadian company is addressing a key gap in the circular economy.