The story these days is batteries, batteries, batteries. Scaling up electric vehicle production is all about scaling up batteries, and scaling up the mineral mining and refining essential to batteries. Scaling up renewable energy generation capacity is all about scaling up battery storage capacity to help with the fluctuations in supply. It’s all about the batteries. Luckily, we’ve got a lot of battery news. In fact, we’ve got so much battery news that we can’t cover it all. Below are 4 battery stories I’ll run through quickly.
Battery Recycling Facility Opens In Alabama
Li-Cycle has opened another battery recycling facility — its 4th “Spoke” in North America. The Alabama Spoke commenced operations this past week.
“The Alabama Spoke utilizes Li-Cycle’s patented and environmentally friendly technology to recycle and directly process full EV battery packs without any dismantling through a submerged shredding process that produces no wastewater. Additionally, Li-Cycle’s full pack processing capability improves efficiency and is fit to process the growing variety of EV battery architectures, including cell-to-pack formats that have limited options for dismantling, which further differentiates the Company’s value proposition.”
The Alabama Spoke is focused on serving the US Southeast. The new battery recycling facility is greater than 100,000 square feet in size, plus has another 120,000 square feet of warehouse capacity. The design is the same as the Arizona Spoke that opened earlier in 2022. The Arizona Spoke is already operating close to its total target throughput. In total, the annual processing capacity of the Alabama Spoke is 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material (but that can be expanded in the future of course).
Adding up the battery recycling capacity of all 4 Spokes, Li-Cycle can process up to 30,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material per year. What does that mean in terms of EVs or number of battery packs? According to Li-Cycle, that’s approximately 60,000 EV batteries a year.
Aside from Gilbert, Arizona; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Li-Cycle’s other two spokes are in Kingston, Ontario; and Rochester, New York.
Li-Cycle is aiming to reach 65,000 tonnes of battery recycling capacity across the US and Europe by the end of 2023.
ACC × Siemens = Sustainable Battery Factory
Siemens and Automotive Cells Company (ACC) are collaborating on what they call “sustainable solutions for battery production.” The aim is also for these to be large-scale solutions, and ACC plans to build gigafactories using the solutions in Billy-Berclau Douvrin, France; Kaiserslautern, Germany; and maybe Termoli, Italy.
The collab falls under the Siemens Xcelerator program. “The partnership is part of the Siemens Xcelerator open digital business platform, launched in June this year, where a curated portfolio of IoT-enabled hardware and software and commitment to strong partnerships aims to accelerate digital transformation. This partnership will make it easier and faster for ACC to progress towards its planned gigafactories at scale.
“Siemens will provide ACC with access to its Digital Enterprise portfolio of hardware and software: from production design to product design, from product lifecycle management to energy management systems. As a starting point, Siemens and ACC plan to create comprehensive digital twins of the battery and the production lines. Leveraging Totally Integrated Automation and Teamcenter software from Siemens Xcelerator, ACC will be able to better connect design and manufacturing to scale-up production.”
Not much is mentioned in the press release about what exactly is meant by “sustainable solutions for battery production,” but one thing that is noted is the goal of creating carbon net zero factories.
SK On Getting Lithium From Australia’s Lake Resources
South Korean EV battery manufacturer SK On (aka SK Innovation) has acquired a 10% stake in Lake Resources. Battery-grade lithium could be delivered as early as the 4th quarter of 2024, and the off-take agreement is initially for 5 years, but an additional 5 year contract is open to be added on.
“SK On would be supplied with 15,000 tons of lithium for the first two years and 25,000 tons of lithium from the third year, meaning the Korean battery maker can secure a total of 230,000 tons of lithium.” What does that mean in terms of electric vehicles? That’s enough batteries for approximately 4.9 million EVs, according to SK On.
SK On has a battery factory in Georgia in the United States where it may use this lithium, and another factory in Georgia is supposed to go into operation in 2023 where SK On could use the lithium.
Aside from those two Georgia factories, SK On has a new joint venture with Ford, BlueOval, that will build two EV battery factories in Kentucky and one in Tennessee. These battery factories are expected to go online in 2025.
“Established in 1997, Lake Resources currently develops four lithium brine projects in Argentina. Of them, Lake Resources will supply high-purity lithium from its flagship Kachi Project.
“The latest deal also fits SK On’s commitment to ESG (environmental, social, governance) principles as Lake Resources produces lithium using a direct lithium extraction (DLE) technique, an environmentally friendly extraction method developed by its U.S. partner Lilac Solutions. The DLE technique from Lilac Solutions delivers a noticeable reduction in brine, water use and land use as its extraction process includes brine reinjection.”
On the news of the new partnership, Lake Resources CEO David Dickson said, “The agreement cements the ability of Lake Resources to scale up environmentally responsible production. … We look forward to a long and beneficial relationship with SK On.”
SK On Getting Lithium From Global Lithium Resources
SK On also recently signed a deal with Australian company Global Lithium Resources for lithium. Not as many details were provided in this case. However, the focus is on getting more lithium from Australia via offtake agreements with Global Lithium Resources.
The company mentioned in that announcement that it has 7 battery factories around the world. Aside from the aforementioned battery factory in Georgia, SK On has battery factories in Hungary, China, and South Korea. In addition to the 7 existing battery factories, SK On is currently constructing another 7 battery factories.
SK On was the 9th largest battery manufacturer in the world in 2019, but it has moved up to 5th globally in 2022. It has 7% of the overall global EV battery market.
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