Indian battery recycling company Attero Recycling Pvt is planning to invest $1 billion over five years to build lithium-ion battery recycling plants in Europe, the US and Indonesia as demand for the metal surges amid the global shift to electric cars.
“There’s a tremendous amount of lithium-ion battery waste available for us to recycle,” Attero Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Nitin Gupta said in an interview. By 2030, 2.5 million tons of lithium-ion batteries will reach the end of their life, while currently there’s only the capacity for 0.7 million tons of battery waste to be recycled. “Lithium-ion batteries are becoming ubiquitous because they’re used in consumer electronics and electric vehicles,” he said.
Recycling spent batteries will be crucial for the supply of lithium, whose shortage is threatening the global switch to clean energy through electric vehicles. As lithium supply fails to keep up with demand, the prices of batteries — which make up about 50% of an EV’s cost — are rising sharply. Higher battery costs may make electric cars unaffordable for the masses and for value-conscious markets such as India, which is already lagging major nations like China in making the switch.
With the $1 billion investment, Attero is seeking to recycle over 300,000 metric tons of lithium-ion battery waste annually by 2027, Gupta said. One facility in Poland will begin operating by the fourth quarter of 2022, while a plant in Ohio is expected to be up and running by the third quarter of 2023. A plant in Indonesia should be functional by the first quarter of 2024.
The expansion will help Attero, India’s largest lithium-ion battery recycling company, meet over 15% of the world’s demand for cobalt, lithium, graphite and nickel, Gupta said. Attero recycles all types of old lithium-ion batteries and then exports the output to gigafactories manufacturing battery cells outside of India. Attero mainly extracts critical metals such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite and manganese, and its clients in India include Hyundai Motor Co., Tata Motors Ltd. and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., among others, Gupta said.
Mining those metals, rather than getting them out of second-hand batteries, can cause environmental and social damage, he said, noting that extracting one ton of lithium requires 500,000 gallons of water.