The strategic partnership between GM and Lithion Recycling will offer the automaker an opportunity to secure a stream of reclaimed battery minerals to feed their in-house cell manufacturing factories
General Motors is one step closer to building an integrated North American electric vehicle battery supply chain after a partnership deal with Quebec-based battery recycling company, Lithion Recycling Inc.
Through the automaker’s investment arm, GM Ventures, GM will invest an as-yet undisclosed amount in Lithion to gain access to their recycling technology.
In an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada, Benoît Couture, president and CEO of Lithion, says that this “strategic partnership” between the two companies will allow GM to establish a “circular economy” for their battery supply chain. For Lithion, the company gains industry recognition for the importance of the recycling technology it is developing.
Initially, Lithion and GM will focus on validating the use of Lithion’s recovered battery materials in the making of new batteries, as well as exploring the potential to acquire battery materials in North America.
“The collaboration is to establish a relationship with the GM suppliers and make sure that they test with our material, that they include the Lithion material in the designing of their batteries in new cells, and that they monitor the fact that the impact of those batteries will be much lower,” says Couture.
The two companies will also invest in R&D to develop more advanced recycling processes and collaborate on increasing the recyclability of future battery designs.
GM scaling battery cell and EV production
GM is looking to “aggressively” scale up its battery cell and EV production capacity in North America, says Jeff Morrison, GM vice president, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain in a press statement.
And they have taken definitive steps to establish themselves as early leaders in the EV race.
In March, GM secured a crucial part of its EV battery supply chain by teaming up with Korea-based Posco Chemicals to build a $500 million cathode active material (CAM) plant in the Bécancour Industrial Park in Quebec. The CAM factory will supply GM’s Ultium battery cell plants in North America. All of GM’s electric vehicles are powered by the Ultium platform and battery cells.
By April, the legacy automaker announced that it was partnering with Honda to produce a new range of compact crossover EVs, based on a new joint platform that GM’s Ultium battery technology will also power.
Morrison says that GM wants to increase its capacity to produce electric vehicles to over one million units per year by 2025. By 2035, it wants all of its new light-duty vehicles to be zero-emission.
“We are building a supply chain and recycling strategy that can grow with us,” says Morrison in the press release. “In Lithion’s technology, we see the opportunity to recover and reuse raw material in our Ultium battery packs, making the EVs we produce even more sustainable and helping drive down costs.”
Lithion’s battery recycling technology
Lithion has developed a process of recycling lithium-ion batteries that, they say, recovers 95 per cent of battery minerals, which can then be treated and reused by battery manufacturers, like GM.
Battery recycling is widely seen as a strategy to reduce pressure on virgin battery mineral extraction and will be crucial for the transition to electric vehicles. It may also lower EV production costs.
“We are in discussion with all the OEMs and it is the speed of the discussion with them is increasing each and every week because they are more aware of the importance of creating a circular economy,” says Couture.
“They’re more aware of the importance of making sure that those strategic materials won’t be lost and that we will create a sustainable supply chain to fulfill the needs of society here and abroad.”
By 2023, Lithion plans to launch its first commercial recycling operations in Montreal, with a capacity of 7,500 tonnes per year of lithium-ion batteries. Following the opening of this flagship facility, the company will launch its first hydrometallurgical plant in Quebec to recover the critical minerals from recycled batteries, utilizing green energy from hydroelectricity, in 2025.
Lithion’s goal is to deploy its technology worldwide, through licensing agreements. The company is already developing multiple projects with partners in the U.S. and South Korea and is in discussion with companies in Europe.
“We bring the knowledge and the capacity to local operators, so they can establish that new industry where they are operating. The technology travels very easily, but the knowledge of the market, not as much. So that’s why we are deploying using a licensing strategy,” says Couture.
Lithion plans to build 25 recycling plants around the world by 2035.