Attero Recycling, India’s largest electronics recycling company, plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years and open operations in Poland, Ohio, and Indonesia this year to capitalize on a worldwide electric vehicle boom.
The World Bank-backed firm, whose clients include Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor, wants to prepare for an IPO in roughly a year and list in India or the United States in the following three years.
Attero’s goal is to increase its yearly lithium-ion battery waste processing capability from 11,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes by 2027, fulfilling 15% of the world’s supply for lithium, cobalt, and graphite, up from less than 0.1 percent as of now.
“Lithium-ion batteries are becoming ubiquitous in nature,” said the CEO Nitin Gupta, who founded Atterro in 2008.
In an interview with Reuters, Gupta said that by selling green metals instead of mining the earth, recycling such batteries would alleviate a waste problem and become a big player in the material supply chain.
Half of the cost of an electric vehicle is lithium-ion batteries, and about 35% of its cost comes from manganese, graphite, lithium, nickel, and cobalt.
Attero has a 98% extraction rate and uses chemical methods rather than the more expensive smelting procedure, which melts certain metals beyond recovery. Some of the resources it recovers are sent to Tesla Inc via Glencore Plc, a Swiss mining company.
According to Gupta, Attero’s Poland factory would be operational by the Q4 of 2022, Q3 of 2023 in Ohio, and Q1 of 2024 in Indonesia. Li-Cycle Holdings and Redwood Materials are among its competitors, but it may also face competition from major manufacturers such as Nissan, which are planning their battery recycling factories.
Recycling is the Key
Materials scientists are tackling two major hurdles in preparation for a world dominated by electric vehicles. One is to reduce the scarce, expensive, or hard metals in batteries mined at high environmental and societal costs. Another option is to improve battery recycling so that valuable metals in used automotive batteries may be utilized effectively. “Recycling will be a big part of it,” says Kwasi Ampofo, a mining engineer and BNEF’s lead metals and mining analyst.
Batteries are shredded first in a typical recycling factory, turning cells into a powdered mixture of all the materials utilized. The mixture is then either liquefied in a smelter (pyrometallurgy) or dissolved in acid to separate its constituent elements (hydrometallurgy). Metals are finally precipitated as salts out of solution.
Researchers are currently focusing on improving the process of recycling lithium and making it more attractive economically. The scaling of a recycling process will help.
While many perceive the impending torrent of wasted batteries as a potential disaster, analysts see it as a huge opportunity. Economies of scale will kick in after millions of huge batteries approach the end of their useful lives, making recycling more effective – and the business case for it more appealing.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), which is known for its historically conservative estimates, released a road map in May that included a switch to electric transportation as a cornerstone for achieving global net-zero emissions by mid-century. The optimism reflects a growing understanding among policymakers, researchers, and manufacturers that the obstacles to electrifying automobiles are now completely solved — and that there is little time to waste if we want to keep climate change to a reasonable level.