A Group Of Lithium Companies Complete The Recycling Loop

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“What are we going to do with all those batteries?”

That’s a common question anti-EV and cleantech skeptics are always asking. In reality, it’s usually not a question they expect to get answered. They’re “asking” to “prove” that EVs, energy storage, and other cleantech using lithium batteries are actually bad for the environment. There’s just one problem with that tactic: It’s just not true.

Battery pack and powertrain of Volvo XC40 electric SUV. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica.

A group of companies in Nevada just made some big investments that prove the skeptics wrong. LINICO Corporation* (“LiNiCo”), Comstock Mining, Green Li-ion, and Aqua Metals just made a series of investments to make sure a very compelling recycling technology actually gets put to use. To complete it all, LiNiCo recently closed a series A funding round with Comstock (NYSE: LODE) and Aqua Metals (NASDAQ: AQMS). LiNiCo also closed a $2M investment into Green Li-ion, giving it a 20% stake (making them the largest shareholder) with first right of refusal in any future equity funding round.

Founder and CEO Michael Vogel comments “Closing our initial investment round with Comstock and Aqua Metals provides LiNiCo with the necessary capital and resources to start our much needed efforts to close the loop on end of life batteries, to divert batteries from going to landfill and to recover the maximum amount of critical metals possible using our state of the art and unique process and technology. Our Green Li-ion technology is currently the most advanced hydro-metallurgical process in the world, which allows us to process spent Li-ion batteries in to high quality black mass and then further convert our black mass into the highest quality rejuvenated individual battery metals and our 99.9% pure cathode products for reuse in to new EVs and all types of electronic devices and Li-ion battery powered applications.”

While we’ve recently covered some other lithium recycling companies, this one is very exciting because their technology and team of companies puts them in a much better position than other recyclers to create usable lithium for new batteries. LiNiCo has now taken over the purpose-built recycling facility it acquired from Aqua Metals in McCarran this month. The facility will be adjusted to suit LiNiCo’s specific requirements in preparation for its proprietary recycling equipment and Green Li-ion technology, which is expected to be operational in Q4 of 2021.Aqua Metals (with LiNiCo’s help) is using its existing hydrometallurgical process to provide complementary technology to the group of companies, a clean process to take impure recycled materials and build the pure metal back one atom at a time. It’s complicated, but the basic idea is very similar to electroplating. It’s all done at room temperature and they don’t create any polluting outputs with their water-based process.

LiNiCo plant location. Photo credit: Aqua Metals.

LiNiCo has an exclusive license in the USA to use Green Li-ion’s 99.9% pure cathode technology, with plans to increase its ownership stake in Green Li-ion and further develop its own sustainable clean technologies in line with the company’s core mission. The tech allows LiNiCo to produce pure, complete cathodes using old lithium-ion batteries, providing the beginnings of a closed-loop system for EV battery production. The company plans to produce 10,000 metric tons of pure cathode in the next 3 years.

They are able to recover cathodes from old batteries without having to separate out the metals. This is a faster, more efficient, greener, and purer process.

“The traditional separation of Co and Ni metallurgy by solvent extraction is a very complicated and slow method,” the company shares. “Instead of separating Co and Ni, a new method is designed to precipitate cathode metals together.”

At first glance, one may wonder why a lithium mining company would want to be a part of all this. After all, recycled lithium competes with new lithium coming from the ground, right?

“Continued advances in energy storage are inevitable, but no resource is infinite, and most of that lithium will need to be recovered and reused at some point,” said Corrado De Gasperis, Comstock’s Executive Chairman and CEO. “We see spent lithium-ion batteries as a potent industrial mineral, and – as with any resource, we need the right team, technology, and infrastructure to extract and process it. This transaction assembles all three into an ecosystem of aligned partners, operating systemically on a common goal.”

In other words, lithium from the ground is getting more and more scarce. It actually makes sense to take advantage of every source of lithium and treat it like a mine. To mine, you need a team and you need to be part of a chain that puts the metal to profitable use, or there’s nobody to sell the metal to. By building this team, the companies are able to do all of that and make lithium battery recycling not only good for the environment, but good for business.

Here at CleanTechnica, we tend to focus on the technologies and not as much on the raw numbers. If you’re interested in learning more about the specific investments between the different companies, there are two great articles at Yahoo Finance with all of the details. I don’t pretend to be great at giving investment advice, but from a technology perspective these companies seem to have a great synergistic relationship that will probably serve them very well in the future. They’re definitely worth looking into!

*This article is supported by LiNiCo. Photos and graphics provided by LiNiCo.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1886 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba