South Korea’s IMM Investment Global led the first tranche of the Series A funding round. Fondaction, a Quebec-based fund, also participated. Lithion would not disclose the value of the first tranche of funding, but said the complete round will total up to $125 million. Work on a second tranche that will wrap up the Series A is already underway.
Lithion’s recycling method works in two steps. The first mechanically breaks down lithium-ion batteries into their plastic and metal components. The second relies on a hydrometallurgical process to isolate the key battery materials, such as cobalt, nickel and lithium, for reuse.
The company says its process recycles 95 per cent of the materials in EV batteries, helping lessen the need for mining new materials as the auto industry shifts away from gasoline and diesel vehicles. Lithion currently has capacity to process about 200 tonnes of end-of-life batteries per year at its $12-million facility in Anjou. It is already working with auto brands such as Hyundai Canada to recycle some of the batteries from EVs and hybrids.
With the fresh capital at its disposal, Lithion plans to scale up in several stages.
Its initial commercial-scale plant will focus on just the shredding portion of its process. Jean-Christophe Lambert, the company’s business development manager, said Lithion is in the final stages of site selection for the facility, which will be capable of processing 7,500 tonnes of spent batteries per year. It aims to start commercial operations by the end of 2022.
A plant dedicated to the hydrometallurgical step will follow in 2024.
In addition to the company-owned Quebec operations, Lithion aims to tap into global demand for EV battery recycling through licensing its technology. It signed one such deal with South Korean construction and recycling firm Dongseo Co. immediately following the funding round Jan. 25. Lambert said a range of businesses worldwide already have existing networks for EV battery collection and dismantling, but lack the technology to extract the valuable metals. He said the company is in “advanced discussions” for partnerships on projects that rely on its technology in both the United States and Europe.
The funding round and shift from demonstration to commercial operations will allow Lithion to more than quintuple its headcount. It currently employs 17 people and plans to hire about 100 new staff for its shredding plant and tech centre over the next four years.