GM Ulitium EV battery pack
GM’s Ultium EV battery platform

In a pivotal deal for the EV industry, which is grappling with the waste and limited-resource challenges of lithium-ion battery production, Mississauga, Ont.-based Li-Cycle will recycle up to 100 per cent of the scrappage from Ultium’s three-million square foot Ohio plant

Ultium Cells LLC, the battery manufacturing venture owned by General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solution, has awarded a major multi-year contract for the recycling of its battery scrap to Li-Cycle, a Mississauga-based battery recycler with plants in Canada and the U.S.

Li-Cycle has agreed to recycle up to 100 per cent of the scrap generated at Ultium’s $2.3-billion Lordstown, Ohio plant, which starts operation in 2022. The three-million square foot plant will have an annual capacity of approximately 35 gigawatt hours (GWh), making it one of the biggest EV battery manufacturing plants in North America.

“GM’s zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90 percent of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025,” said Ken Morris, GM vice-president of electric and autonomous vehicles, in a statement announcing the deal. “Now, we’re going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials.”

Sustainable and cheaper

According to GM, 95 per cent of battery recycling scrap can be reused in the production of new batteries or in adjacent industries. As such, the Li-Cycle partnership will allow Ultium to expand the materials it currently recycles and reroute manufacturing scrap back into its supply chains, thus providing a sustainable and cheaper alternative to increased lithium mining.

“Our efforts with Ultium Cells LLC will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery grade materials back into the battery supply chain,” said Ajay Kochhar, Li-Cycle president, CEO, and co-founder. “This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining.”

Li-Cycle’s recycling process can produce critical raw materials including lithium carbonate, cobalt sulphate, and nickel sulphate from battery scrappage. The recycling of Ultium’s scrappage will be undertaken at Li-Cycle’s Rochester, N.Y., plant, which has been operational since December.

This project marks not only a significant advance for Ultium’s sustainability efforts, but also a major first for the North American EV battery industry. Due to the increased sustainability and cost savings that battery scrappage recycling brings to manufacturers, it is likely that many more such large-scale battery recycling agreements will be seen in the coming years.

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