Li-Cycle has put together similar partnerships. Among other deals, it signed a recycling agreement last year with Ultium Cells, the General Motors and LG Energy Solution joint venture. In January, Li-Cycle detailed plans to co-locate a recycling facility with a 15,000-tonne-per-year capacity at GM’s new battery plant in Warren, Ohio, simplifying the logistics and lowering costs. Johnson said for every tonne of batteries built, 50 to 100 kilograms of battery material ends up as waste.
Other recyclers are at various stages of development. Montreal-based Lithion Recycling, for instance, opened a demonstration facility in Montreal in 2019 and is currently developing a commercial-scale operation. In January, it closed the first portion of a $125-million funding round, giving it the capital to build a plant capable of processing 7,500 tonnes of spent battery material per year. It plans to open that facility by the end of 2022 and then a complementary plant by 2024 that will extract the individual battery metals from the waste, readying them for reuse in new batteries.
Among other partners, the company struck a deal with Hyundai Canada last March to recycle some of the batteries from the brand’s EVs and hybrids.
Lithion business-development manager JeanChristophe Lambert said Quebec’s high uptake of EVs and its mining history make the province an ideal locale to scale up its technology. The Montreal site will also keep Lithion close to a source of batteries, minimizing risks and costs associated with transporting hazardous material, said Lambert.
“As close as you can be to where there will be a large volume of batteries, the better it is.”
Like other recycling startups, the company is working on aggressive expansion. It plans to use a licensing model to team up with companies that have existing recycling networks but lack the proper technology to process batteries. In January, it signed one such countrywide deal with a South Korea-based construction and recycling firm, and it is in “advanced discussions” with partners in both the United States and Europe as well, Lambert said.
Moe Kabbara, senior consultant with Dunsky Energy Consulting in Montreal, said the growing investment in battery recycling and second-life applications will help the EV sector “nail down” its circular-economy credentials. But it will take time.
“We’re going to need to mine the resources today because there’s an immediate shortage in the next five to 10 years and until the recycling comes online, it’s going to play a complementary role meeting the demand for the materials.”