‘Interview with Li-Cycle’
September 1st, 2023Back to posts
September 1st, 2023Back to posts
ICM: Please tell us about Li-Cycle’s activity in the battery recycling field.
Elewout Depicker: Li-Cycle was founded in 2016 to address a missing link in the future of global electrification – the lack of an economically and environmentally sustainable lithium-ion battery recycling solution. Fast forward to today, Li-Cycle’s safe, sustainable, and scalable Spoke & Hub Technologies™ return lithium-ion batteries and battery manufacturing scrap to the supply chain with up to a 95% recovery rate. As Li-Cycle scales its industry-leading technologies, we maintain an unwavering dedication to sustainability. Our focus remains on minimizing solid waste streams, reducing wastewater discharge, and mitigating the impact of air emissions as we recycle lithium-ion batteries.
Li-Cycle’s highly scalable and patent protected Spoke & Hub Technologies™ enables the return of battery materials back to the domestic supply chain for re-use by battery manufacturers and electric vehicle and energy storage producers to support a local and circular economy. We can also process all types of lithium-ion batteries and manufacturing scrap.
At our Spokes, the first stage of our process, we safely recycle battery materials through a proprietary submerged shredding process to produce ‘black mass,’ an intermediate product which contains highly valuable metals, including lithium, nickel, and cobalt.
In 2022, we operationalized our ‘Generation 3’ Spoke technology at our facilities in Gilbert, Arizona and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Li-Cycle’s Generation 3 Spoke technology has the capability to directly process full electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage battery packs without any manual dismantling or discharging, which enhances safety and efficiency and is a significant value differentiator for Li-Cycle. Our Spoke technology is also one of the most energy efficient solutions commercially available.
Li-Cycle’s first European Spoke’s main processing line in Magdeburg, Germany is now operational with a second line expected to start later in 2023. Each main line can process up to 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material annually, with a total capacity to recycle 30,000 tonnes of lithium-ion batteries, which includes ancillary processing. The Germany Spoke is the largest Spoke in Li-Cycle’s portfolio and one of the largest recycling facilities of its kind on the continent.
Across Li-Cycle’s five operational Spokes in Ontario, New York, Arizona, Alabama, and Germany, the Company will have a total installed processing capacity of 81,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material per year.
At our Hub facilities, the second stage of the company’s vertically integrated process, Li-Cycle processes black mass to produce battery-grade materials, such as lithium carbonate, nickel sulphate, cobalt sulphate, manganese carbonate, and more. Our first commercial Hub facility is under construction in Rochester, New York and is on track to commence commissioning in late 2023 with ramp up of operations in 2024. The facility is expected to be the first source of recycled battery-grade lithium carbonate in North America. It is a flagship asset for our business and, strongly believe this first-of-its-kind clean-tech refining facility will play a key role in solving many challenges associated with e-waste across North America and Europe.
In addition to our Rochester Hub facility, we recently announced plans to study the feasibility of, and later develop, our first Hub in Europe with Glencore. The location of this Hub is in Sardinia, Italy at Glencore’s existing Portovesme metallurgical facility, which we would look to re-purpose, to enable a cost-efficient and expedited development plan. The Portovesme Hub would be a landmark project for Europe’s battery recycling industry and is expected to be the largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium, as well as recycled nickel and cobalt, on the European continent.
ICM: Why should potential clients work with Li-Cycle?
Elewout Depicker: Li-Cycle strives to deliver a full-service, safe battery recycling process that is as economically viable as possible for all parties involved. Li-Cycle uses a business-to-business model to collect and recycle lithium-ion batteries. At Li-Cycle, we pride ourselves on delivering an unparalleled level of assurance to our customers throughout the battery recycling journey. Our commitment to consistently uphold the highest standards of care serves as the cornerstone of our approach, minimizing risks at every step. In addition to our commitment to excellence, we follow the highest regulatory standards set by governing bodies at both regional and international levels.
At Li-Cycle, we work closely with our customers to ensure the unique needs of their business are met as it pertains to the safe handling of lithium-ion batteries. Safety is our top priority, and we take great pride in ensuring the safety of all our facilities.
What sets us apart is our versatility – we have the capability to recycle all kinds of lithium-ion batteries and their components. Moreover, our unique ability to process complete electric vehicle battery packs and energy storage packs without the need for dismantling further enhances our value proposition.
At Li-Cycle, we maintain a proactive approach to quickly adapt to evolving customer needs and market conditions as we continue to scale to grow in lockstep with our growing global customer base.
ICM: What do you see as your priorities for development in this field?
Elewout Depicker: When considering our development priorities in this field, which encompasses both technological and geographical aspects, Li-Cycle’s Spoke & Hub Technologies play a pivotal role. Each component of Li-Cycle’s technology is commercially standard and scalable but arranged and operated in a proprietary fashion. The technology is positioned to scale as the lithium-ion battery recycling industry continues to grow.
A few priority developments include:
Technological Advancements: Staying at the forefront of technological innovation is paramount at Li-Cycle. An example of this is our ‘Generation 3’ Spoke technology which has the capability to directly process full electric vehicle and energy storage battery packs without any manual dismantling or discharging, which enhances safety and efficiency and is a significant value differentiator for Li-Cycle.
Creating a Local Closed-Loop and Sustainable Battery Supply Chain: As global concerns about sustainability intensify, it is crucial that we continue to align our efforts with local regulations and the principles of creating a sustainable closed-loop battery supply chain for a clean energy future. Compared to traditional mining and refining processes, Li-Cycle’s overall process provides emission reduction benefits of up to 67% for CO2, 86% for SOx, and 89% for NOx and reduces water usage by up to 97% per tonne of battery input.
Geographical Expansion: To date, Li-Cycle has five fully operational Spoke facilities, in Kingston, Ontario; Rochester, New York; Gilbert, Arizona; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Magdeburg, Germany. We are also actively expanding our presence in Europe with planned Spokes in Norway and France and exploring a site selection for a new potential Spoke in Hungary. This ensures we have an established footprint in key strategic regions, near our customers, to be able to minimize transportation needs and further minimize our carbon footprint.
Collaboration and Partnerships: The complexity of battery recycling demands collaboration across the entire battery supply chain. Prioritizing partnerships with battery manufacturers, governmental bodies, and environmental organizations can facilitate knowledge exchange, regulatory support, and resource sharing. For example, Li-Cycle has more than 200 global customers and partnerships, including international automakers and battery manufacturers. In terms of government support, in February 2023, Li-Cycle received a commitment for $375 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to support development of our Rochester Hub facility. The Rochester Hub is expected to become a significant domestic source of recycled battery-grade materials, including lithium, nickel, and cobalt, and will be the first-of-its-kind commercial facility in North America.
In summary, our development priorities encompass a multifaceted approach that position ourselves as a leading lithium-ion battery recycler.
ICM: How do you see the market developing?
Elewout Depicker: When considering the development of the market, it’s important to recognize the rapid acceleration of EV production goals by automakers around the world. This surge in electric vehicle manufacturing requires a reliable and domestic supply of battery materials. Here, Li-Cycle plays a pivotal role.
In 2023, Li-Cycle expects that approximately 450,000 tonnes of battery material will be available for recycling compared to only 65,000 tonnes of post processing recycling capacity in North America and Europe. By 2030, Li-Cycle expects that that there will be more than 2 million tonnes of material available for recycling, compared to less than 900,000 tonnes of recycling capacity.
ICM: Why are you participating again in ICBR 2023?
Elewout Depicker: Li-Cycle is pleased to once again participate and present at the International Congress for Battery Recycling. As leaders in sustainable lithium-ion battery recycling, this event provides us with a unique platform to discuss our industry-leading Spoke & Hub Technologies™ and showcase our commitment to create a closed-loop supply chain for lithium-ion batteries to accelerate the clean energy transition.
ICM: How positive are you in the future for Li-Cycle in this business and why?
Elewout Depicker: “At Li-Cycle, we are highly optimistic about the future of Li-Cycle in this business. Our achievements and global expansion not only demonstrate our proficiency in lithium-ion battery recycling but also underscore our proactive approach to meeting the growing demand for sustainable battery solutions. Li-Cycle’s strategic positioning, operational excellence, and commitment to innovation and sustainability make me highly positive about its successful future in this business.”