Renewable Metals secures funds to scale up battery recycling technology

battery recycling

Australian battery recycling start-up Renewable Metals has closed an $8 million investment round to scale and commercialise its lithium-ion battery recycling technology, backed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Asia Pacific and US-based investors.

The $2.5M CEFC investment is managed by Virescent Ventures. The lead investor is Asia Pacific-based venture capital firm Investible, via its early-stage Climate Tech Fund, with additional participation from US-based venture capital investor, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.

The investment round will support Renewable Metals in the development of a pilot plant in Perth, bringing forward the construction of a larger scale demonstration plant capable of processing up to 1500 tonnes of battery waste annually.

The investment will also support the expansion of the Renewable Metals team to further develop the Australian battery recycling industry – which CSIRO has estimated could help recover up to $3.1 billion of valuable battery materials and metals – and contribute to the global battery industry.

Virescent Ventures Partner Blair Pritchard said there is a growing global need for effective waste management strategies as demand for lithium-ion batteries rises, driven by the increasing electrification of transport and the renewable energy generation storage sector.

“Battery recycling that extracts valuable metals and materials is an important part of building Australia’s circular economy as demand for batteries grows,” Pritchard said.

“By developing end-of-life battery systems, Australia can participate across the battery value chain, from critical minerals extraction, refining, processing operation and maintenance and the eventual repurposing and recycling of batteries and components.”

Renewable Metals has developed a more sustainable and efficient process to recycle all formats of lithium-ion batteries, from large battery packs currently used in electric vehicles (EVs) and home stationary storage batteries, as well as small consumer electronic batteries.

The process has the potential to recover more of the critical minerals that support electrification, help address battery waste and strengthen Australia’s circular economy.

 The Renewable Metals technology uses an alkaline leaching that eliminates the need to pre-process battery cells to ‘black mass’ as found in existing battery recycling processes.  The extraction method uses less chemicals to recover critical battery materials and produces less waste, reducing processing costs by up to 30 per cent.

According to Renewable Metals, this process has achieved metal recovery rates that are higher than other recycling methods, particularly for lithium.

The Renewable Metals technology can recover the critical materials from batteries including lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese and can be applied to different battery chemistries.

The technology has the potential to recycle lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) batteries, which make up a growing share of batteries used in EVs and are currently too expensive to recycle through existing technology.

Renewable Metals Chief Executive Officer, Luan Atkinson said: “To decarbonise quickly, the world needs cost-effective recycling solutions that maximise recovery for all types of lithium batteries (not just higher value ones with nickel and cobalt). We’re thrilled to be backed by the CEFC, Grantham and Investible. Their support will accelerate our scale-up as well as help create two to three times more value than the current Australian practice of exporting batteries or black mass for recycling overseas.”

The CEFC established Virescent Ventures as an independent investment management firm to attract more private sector investors into Australian climate tech.

Virescent, Ventures is pursuing its first capital raise and also manages CEFC Clean Energy Innovation Fund investment commitments. The Renewable Metals investment brings the Innovation Fund portfolio to 28 companies.

Renewable Metals was founded by a team of experienced metallurgists and was awarded the inaugural Supercharge Australia Innovation Challenge Award earlier in 2023 for its technological developments.

As the uptake of EVs and battery storage increases, demand for batteries is forecast to grow by 34 per cent per annum to 2030, an 18-fold increase over 2020 levels.

Global lithium consumption is forecast to grow by 20 per cent annually but there is a potential shortfall of lithium and the sector has been constrained by processing bottlenecks.

Some valuable battery materials can be recycled indefinitely, reprocessed and reused, reducing reliance on mining for new resources. In 2021, only 10 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste was recycled, compared to 99 per cent of lead battery waste.

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