Li-Cycle’s Chief Strategy Officer, Kunal Phalpher, took time to chat with me on a call about the progress the company has made, its goals, and informing consumers that lithium-ion battery recycling companies exist and they don’t have to throw away their devices. In recent news, Li-Cycle announced that it will host its first annual shareholder’s meeting on April 28, 2022, online via a live audio webcast.
Interview with Kunal Phalphar, CSO Li-Cycle
Kunal told me that since the last time we spoke, the company has been rapidly deploying assets, which are its Spokes and Hub. The Spokes are the battery recycling facilities that Li-Cycle is building to process recycled lithium-ion batteries. The Hub is where battery materials (black mass) are run through the hydrometallurgical circuit to produce individual metal sulfate and carbonate products that have the required purity levels for use in cathode and precursor production.
He explained they are developing the Spokes in North America and also have two in Europe.
“We’re building five different Spokes. The first one, which is the Arizona one, is nearing operation, and then the Hub project, of course, is a flagship project that we continue to be on track for next year and had some recent news of the air permit being secured.”
Prior to this interview, the last article I’d written about Li-Cycle was about the news of its Spoke in Norway, which will be its first European battery recycling facility.
Kunal noted that some of the key achievements of Li-Cycle since our conversation last year were its rapid deployment and the Arizona Spoke. He also spoke about Norway’s EV dominance and that this was the right place to be.
He explained that the company partnered with a couple of local companies to establish the site and to begin to mobilize more construction activity for the Hub. The two companies Li-Cycle has partnered with are Morrow Batteries and ECO-STOR. You can read more about that here.
The last time I spoke with Kunal was practically a year ago and I asked him to share some of the company’s near-term and long-term plans (if they were public, of course).
“The five Spokes and the one Hub that we are building are really key for the company, as I mentioned. The Arizona Spoke is nearing operation. Next quarter to three, we’ll have the Alabama Spoke in operation and then as we head into 2023, the Norway and the Germany Spokes will come into operation.
“It’s really focused on building out assets, and as we build out assets, we want to build up the customer base so we continue to find new customers and work with our customers to ensure that we can meet their needs and devise, in the long run, our closed-loop service.”
Li-Cycle is also providing jobs for the communities where its building its Spokes and Hubs. In Arizona, the company will bring 50 jobs. I think it’s important to bring this up because clean energy-related jobs will help accelerate sustainability in the long run.
Additional Plans For Growth
Li-Cycle has announced a second European Spoke in Germany and also one in North America — in Ohio on the property of Ultium Cells.
“The additional plans that we’ve announced, one is in Ohio based on the contract we have with Ultium Cells, the joint venture between GM and LG. Some weeks ago, we announced that we’d be building a Spoke site on their property in order to service that.
“We’ve also announced that we have a Germany Spoke under development. There’s reasonable EV penetration in Germany, but there’s also a lot of production of vehicles, batteries, and battery packs in the country. So, that is of strategic importance to be in that market.”
Battery Recycling For Other Items Besides EV Batteries
We also chatted about how individuals could contribute to battery recycling. EV batteries are not the only lithium-ion batteries. We have them in our phones, computers, portable chargers, and, of course, there are a wide variety of batteries. The critical minerals in them can be reused instead of dumped in the landfill.
“A lot of the discussion around lithium-ion batteries and battery recycling is focused on EVs, but every one of us is using probably multiple batteries a day in different devices, whether it’s your work stuff such as your laptop or your household where you’re in a warm place and have an electric lawnmower or in a cold place like us and have an electric snowblower. The number of lithium-ion batteries per capita continues to grow as more and more devices use this technology.
“As individuals, we can ensure that those are not just put aside when they’re dead or thrown in the wrong stream, like typical recycling. But consumers are then aware that there are pathways to bring devices to manufacturers or bring batteries back to a store with a drop-off spot so that they end up in the right homes with proper recycling techniques.”
I asked Kunal if Li-Cycle would set up its own recycling centers for all types of lithium-ion batteries in major cities where people can drop off their devices. He told me that there are other groups that collect the devices such as placing bins at Home Depot to collect consumer batteries. He added they are more generic battery collection spots for household batteries and then another company separates those into the different types of batteries and then Li-Cycle receives them.
“Our goal is to work with those channel partners who are setting up those programs and be a processer for the lithium-ion batteries.”
Kunal shared some parting thoughts on the importance of sharing awareness with consumers that lithium-ion battery recycling companies exist for all of their lithium-ion battery devices.
“I think it’s important to understand that recycling is happening today with lithium-ion batteries. There is a solution for it whether it’s EVs or your cell phone. And we want to encourage consumers to make sure they are asking the right questions to ensure devices and materials to get back to recyclers like ourselves.”
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