The emergence of Lithium-Ion (Li-ION) batteries changed the face of transportation. These batteries have environmental and social consequences associated with their manufacture. Children are employed as miners in a vast number of unlicensed mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. In South America, lithium mining has resulted in severe groundwater loss, while poisonous leaks from the process have poisoned water sources in Tibet. Recycling these Li-ION batteries could be one way for reducing the environmental impact.
Li-ION battery recycling reduces air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps batteries out of facilities that aren’t suited to handle them safely. By 2030, 15 million tonnes of Li-ION batteries will have reached the end of their useful life, making recycling an imperative need. In 2018, Lohum Cleantech, a Delhi NCR-based integrated lithium battery producer and recycler, was founded to lower the cost of electricity while also being ecologically friendly.
Lohum has two facilities in the Delhi-NCR area with a total capacity of 300 MWh for li-ion battery manufacture for two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and stationary ESS (energy storage systems used in utilities, power producers, and grid operators, as well as commercial buildings for power backup). Their two-wheeler and three-motor markets account for the majority of their battery demand.
When an electric vehicle battery reaches the end of its useful life, it is either reused for use in other applications or recycled to recover the raw components that went into it. Lohum offers EV mobility battery packs with capacities ranging from 1 to 15 kWh. All OEM battery systems and ESS (stationary energy storage systems) are customized to meet the OEM’s specific needs.
India lacks the technical expertise to manufacture unit-sized Li-ion cells, which are imported from other countries and integrated into BMS (battery management systems) that are customized to each client’s needs. According to Rajat, the company is also a global leader in battery reuse for mobility applications, with over two million operating miles to date.
How does Lohum recycle Li-ion batteries?
The company has established a dedicated Li-ion battery collection centre that receives end-of-life batteries regularly from a network of responsible suppliers. To prepare them for cell and module testing, these batteries are meticulously separated by form factors and chemistries.
Plastics, copper, and aluminium foil are separated from the black material by shredding non-useable battery cells. A useful cell has a lot of life left in it, and it can be successfully used for battery reuse as second-life batteries. A mechanical shredding technique is paired with a hydrometallurgical process to create lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and graphite during the extraction phase.
An average two-wheeler EV battery weighs around 15 kg, thus there will be roughly 60 or more of these batteries in a tonne. Mr Rajat Verma, CEO of Lohum wants to increase the number of two-wheeled batteries by a factor of ten, from 60,000 to 6,000,000.
Battery demand for lithium and nickel is predicted to increase by 13 times, Graphite by 12 times, and Cobalt by 6 times. By 2027, about 200GWh of used batteries are expected to be accessible for re-use or recycling, creating a market worth more than $11 billion, according to forecasts.
Battery Waste Disposal Options
The present draught standards for EV OEMs are primarily based on the same Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework specified for e-waste generating enterprises. The draught guidelines for the management of spent EV batteries have not yet been made public and are still being debated. “India needs to get its act together” when it comes to transporting discarded batteries for recycling because they can catch fire, according to Rajat.
The company intends to raise additional Rs 300 crores through a new round of finance. It is planning to build one of the world’s largest Li-ION factories in Greater Noida, with a capacity of 3 GWh or 3,000 MWh per year. The startup, which is bootstrapped until 2020, received a $7 million investment from institutional investor.