Behold the lowly forklift, the industrial workhorse that is at the heart of virtually every supply chain in the world. They are the critical equipment that loads and unloads billions of pallets every year to keep the wheels of commerce humming. Because they often operate indoors, many of them are powered by batteries and electric motors. Today’s machines often use lithium-ion batteries, and that’s where Li-Cycle, a company that recycles lithium batteries, comes into the picture.
KION is one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of industrial trucks — especially forklifts — in the world. Globally it employs more than 41,000 people in 100 countries and has an installed based of more than 1.7 million forklifts and other industrial vehicles. On March 27, Li-Cycle and KION announced a new global partnership for lithium-ion battery recycling.
In a joint press release, the two companies said Li-Cycle will recycle lithium-ion batteries from KION’s global brands “using its proprietary and innovative submerged shredding technology that is safe, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective.” The agreement, which will be in effect until 2030, has designated Li-Cycle as KION’s preferred global recycling partner to ensure that KION batteries are recycled sustainably.
“Li-Cycle is excited to be designated as KION’s preferred global recycling partner, as we continue to grow and diversify our customer portfolio to advance our expansion plans in Europe and help drive a sustainable and localized battery ecosystem,” said Tim Johnston, co-founder of Li-Cycle. “Through our partnership, Li-Cycle expects to support both KION’s recycling needs and KION’s ability to align with the EU’s battery regulations. Together, we will build a circular battery supply chain and further support the clean energy transition.”
“With this strategic partnership, we are taking an important step towards the circular economy that we want to implement for our products,” said Henry Puhl, chief technology officer of KION. “The collaboration with Li-Cycle will further strengthen our position in the area of sustainability.”
“Li-Cycle’s sustainable Spoke & Hub process enables up to 95 percent of the mass of a lithium-ion battery to be recovered and the critical minerals contained in those batteries to be used to manufacture new batteries,” commented Andreas Krinninger, member of the Executive Board of KION. “This makes us one of the pioneers in the material handling industry in the field of recovery and recycling of lithium-ion batteries.”
The partnership will insure that batteries from KION’s electric industrial trucks are recycled in a safe and environmentally friendly manner to support the development of a sustainable, innovative, and localized battery supply chain in Europe. Li-Cycle expects to commence recycling of KION’s batteries at its Spoke in Germany, with start-up expected in mid-2023.
The Li-Cycle Spoke & Hub System
Li-Cycle uses an innovative vertically integrated two step Spoke and Hub lithium-ion battery recycling and resource recovery process. At the Spoke locations, the company uses its patented and environmentally friendly technology to recycle end of life battery materials and manufacturing scrap. The result of that process is something the company calls “black mass,” which is then shipped to its Hub in Rochester, New York. The Hub takes in the black mass and separates out the battery materials it contains so they can be used to manufacture new batteries. Its Rochester facility is able to process about 50,000 tons of used batteries annually.
Li-Cycle has recently received a $375 million conditional loan guarantee to expand its Rochester Hub. “We are delighted to receive the first conditional commitment from the DOE LPO for a resource recovery facility, as it further supports our efforts to create a sustainable domestic supply chain of battery-grade materials in the U.S. and to grow American jobs,” said co-founder Ajay Kochhar. “The Rochester Hub is a cornerstone asset for Li-Cycle and its stakeholders and will be an important contributor to the clean energy economy. As a sustainable pure-play battery material recycling company, we expect the Rochester Hub will position Li-Cycle as a leading domestic producer of recycled battery grade materials for accelerating electrification demand to address climate change and secure energy independence.”
There are currently four Li-Cycle Spoke locations in North America. The company has plans to locate its first European Spoke in Germany and now, as the result of the partnership with KION, it will also build a Spoke in Harnes, a city in the north of France that is close to several newly announced battery factories. The growing lithium-ion battery ecosystem in France represents one of Europe’s largest battery end of life and cell manufacturing markets.
Tim Johnston said in the press release, “Consistent with our strategy, Li-Cycle continues to scale in lockstep with our customers. As we advance the deployment of our highly replicable and proven Spoke & Hub model into the European market, our Spoke in France will better position us to support KION and the accelerating market growth in the country.”
Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France region where the France Spoke will be located, commented, “Hauts-de-France is proud to have been chosen by Li-Cycle to set up its first Spoke in France. This investment is very good news for our Region. Firstly, because it will create jobs, but above all, because it represents a new milestone for the ‘Battery Valley’ we are building in Hauts-de-France.”
Li-Cycle’s Spoke in France will be constructed at an existing building site with access to renewable energy. The plant is expected to have the ability to process up to 10,000 tons of lithium-ion battery material per year, with the option to expand to as much as 25,000 tons per year. The France Spoke is expected to leverage Li-Cycle’s ‘Generation 3’ Spoke technology, which has the capability to directly process full electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage battery packs without any manual dismantling to enhance safety and cost effectiveness. The France Spoke is expected to become operational in 2024 and to bring Li-Cycle’s future planned capacity across its global Spoke network to more than 100,000 tons of lithium-ion battery material per year.
Li-Cycle’s first European Spoke will be located in Germany and will leverage the Company’s ‘Generation 3’ Spoke technology. The Germany Spoke is expected to be the Company’s largest Spoke facility to-date, with processing capacity for 30,000 tons of lithium-ion battery material per year, including main line and ancillary processing capacity. Li-Cycle is also developing a ‘Generation 3’ Spoke in Norway, which is expected to have processing capacity of up to 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material per year.
Humanity needs to learn how to repurpose and reuse critical materials if we want to live in a sustainable world. Our very existence depends on it. Li-Cycle and other companies like Redwood Materials are laying the groundwork for sustainable battery reclamation and reuse. Other companies are addressing the need to recycle solar panels and wind turbines at the end of their useful life. These efforts will be models for other industries to follow in the future.
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