As the race to secure raw materials for the battery industry heats up, Battery Resourcers said it will open North America's largest battery recycling facility later this year in Georgia.
Batteries are at the heart of the transition to renewable energy -- they're vital for storing energy from solar and wind farms and for powering electric cars -- and they're heavily reliant on rare earth and critical metals that are hard to find in the U.S. and in short supply globally.
That's why companies like Battery Resourcers and Redwood Materials are so important and the work they're doing to build out supply chains in the U.S. are critical to the successful energy transition here.
At the Consumer Electronics Show yesterday, Panasonic announced that it would be using Redwood Materials recycled metals in the batteries it supplies to Tesla -- itself a supplier of used batteries to Redwood. So the battery materials are becoming full circle and presenting a path forward for a more closed loop manufacturing industry.
"By the end of this year, we expect to include Redwood's copper foil, produced from recycled materials, back into our new battery production," said Allan Swan, the president of Panasonic North America, in an address from the show.
The development of big battery facilities focused on smoothing the path to a renewable energy future could have consequences on the politics at play in the South as well. Many of the electric vehicle manufacturing plants and battery facilities are being built in Georgia and other states across the southeast.
In particular, Georgia proved to be a swing state whose political fortunes determined the path forward for renewables in the U.S. in the last national election. That election of Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, made possible the passage of the infrastructure bill signed by President Biden and sets the stage for a potential $500 billion infusion of federal funding for initiatives like national vehicle electrification.
The new Battery Resourcers facility in Covington, Georgia will process 30,000 metric tons of discarded lithium-ion batteries and scrap per year. Once that waste is processed it will provide battery grade lithium cobalt, and nickel back into the battery supply chain.
Building out the new facility will mean a $43 million investment and will bring 150 new jobs to the Atlanta exurb -- conveniently located near several electric vehicle manufacturing plants and lithium-ion gigafactories, the company said. “Automotive OEMs are sitting on mountains of discarded batteries and scrap, and right now they have very few options for responsible and cost-effective disposal,” said Michael O’Kronley, the chief executive of Battery Resourcers, in a statement. “With this convenient U.S. location and our next-generation technology, we are providing a sustainable solution to help minimize the need for mining while returning valuable, battery-grade materials back into the lithium-ion supply chain.”
For O'Kronley, the development of battery recycling facilities is as important as the construction of factories for manufacturing the batteries themselves -- and the U.S. is behind in both.
“As an industry, we need to match the capacity of the gigafactories producing millions of batteries with our own ‘gigarecycling’ facilities that can recycle millions of batteries," O'Kronley said. "Our Covington facility will be the largest in North America this summer, but we encourage development of recycling facilities even larger than this one. We all win when we prevent batteries from going to landfill.”
Battery Resourcers technology not just saves valuable land from the punishment of excavators and extractive mining, but its materials outperform traditionally new cathode manufactured components by 53% in terms of life cycle. The process also uses less water and costs less than traditional extraction methods.
“We know that Battery Resourcers had many options to consider before choosing Georgia as the location for this facility,” said Pat Wilson, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Georgia offers important assets for business growth, such as our educated workforce, pro-business climate and high quality of life, and we are confident that these qualities – combined with our commitment to sustainability – will contribute to us working in partnership with Battery Resourcers for years to come.”