As more of the transportation market becomes electrified, companies have begun to grapple with disposing of the thousands of tons of used EV batteries that are expected to hit the streets by the end of the decade.
Battery Resourcers suggests a seemingly simple solution: recycle them. But the company doesn’t stop there. A “closed-loop” process was developed to convert this recycled material into nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes and sell them back to battery manufacturers. A process is also being developed to recover and purify graphite, a material used in anodes, to battery quality.
Battery Resourcers’ business model has drawn another round of investor attention, this time with an Orbia Ventures-led Series B stock round worth $ 20 million with injections from At One Ventures, TDK Ventures, TRUMPF Venture, Doral Energy-Tech Ventures and InMotion Ventures. Battery Resourcers CEO Mike O’Kronley declined to disclose the company’s new valuation.
The cathode and anode, along with the electrolyzer, are important components of the battery architecture, and O’Kronley told TechCrunch that it is this recycling-plus manufacturing process that sets the company apart from other recyclers.
“When we say we’re about to revolutionize this industry, we’re making the cathode-active material – we’re not just recovering the metals that are in the battery like many other recyclers are doing,” he said. “We recover these materials, formulate brand new cathode active material and recover and clean the graphite active material. So these two active materials are sold to a battery manufacturer and go straight back into the new battery. “
“Other recycling companies focus on recovering only the metals they contain [batteries]: There is copper, there is aluminum, there is nickel, there is cobalt. They are focused on recovering these metals and selling them back as raw materials to the industry that needs those metals, ”he added. “And they may or may not go back into a battery.”
The company says its approach could reduce the battery industry’s reliance on mined metals – a dependency that will only increase in decades to come. A study published last December found that demand for cobalt could increase by a factor of 17 and for nickel by a factor of 28, depending on the size of the EV uptake and advances in battery chemistry.
Previously, the company operated a demonstration facility in Worcester, Massachusetts, and has expanded to a facility in Novi, Michigan, performing analytical testing and material characterization. The company can produce around 15 tons of cathode material annually between the two locations. This latest round of funding will help facilitate the development of a commercial scale plant. According to Battery Resourcers, the capacity to process 10,000 tons of batteries per year or batteries from around 20,000 electric vehicles will be increased.
Another important element of the company’s recycling process is the ability to pick up and process both old and new EV batteries, and to formulate the latest type of cathodes used in today’s batteries. “So they can take 10-year-old batteries from a Chevy Volt and reformulate the metals to make the high Ni-cathode active materials used today,” a company spokesman told TechCrunch.
Battery Resourcers is already receiving inquiries from automakers and consumer electronics companies, O’Kronley said, although he did not provide additional details. InMotion Ventures, the venture capital arm of Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement that its participation in the round was a “significant investment”.
“[Battery Resourcers’] The company’s end-to-end recycling process supports Jaguar Land Rover’s journey to become a net zero carbon business by 2039, ”said Sebastian Peck, Managing Director of InMotion.
Battery Resourcers was founded in 2015 after it was spun off from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. The company was previously supported by the National Science Foundation and the US Advanced Battery Consortium, a collaboration between General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.