Koch invests US$100m in battery recycling company Li-Cycle

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Lithium-ion batteries are shredded as part of the first step in Li-Cycle’s recycling process. Image: Li-Cycle.

US$100 million has been invested into North American lithium-ion battery recycling specialist Li-Cycle by a venture capital (VC) subsidiary of fossil fuels industry giant Koch Industries.

In a transaction announced yesterday, Li-Cycle said Koch Strategic Platforms will buy a convertible note to support its “rapidly expanding growth opportunities in North America, Europe and Asia”. Li-Cycle already operates two facilities in Kingston, Ontario and Rochester, New York, with plans to open more in Arizona and Alabama as well as further New York facilities which will create a closed loop recycling ecosystem.

Li-Cycle claims to have made almost all the valuable materials from spent batteries recoverable through its two-step mechanical and hydrometallurgical process. While the company is largely targeting the electric vehicle industry, executives have previously told Energy-Storage.news that it views the stationary energy storage system (ESS) industry as an important source of feedstock as well as end customers in the years to come. 

Koch Industries subsidiaries are also working with the Canada-headquartered recycling company to find ways and opportunities to accelerate its global growth strategies, and Li-Cycle could find itself working with Koch Engineered Solutions (KES). KES provides engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services as well as having an Optimized Process Designs group division, which helps manufacturers design and engineer their products and manufacturing processes. 

Li-Cycle has two types of facility: Hubs and Spokes. The Spokes are where batteries are reduced down to produce black mass, which contains materials including lithium, cobalt and nickel that can be recovered. The Hubs process that recovered black mass back into usable high purity materials. 

The company said KES would be capable of constructing, testing and shipping modular Spoke facilities from the Koch subsidiary’s various factory locations around the world, including in Poland and Texas, US. 

“KSP’s investment in Li-Cycle will further fund and accelerate the growth of our lithium-ion battery recycling footprint in North America and globally, as we scale our efficient and proven technology globally to grow in lockstep with our customers and pursue new market opportunities,” Li-Cycle CEO and co-founder Ajay Kochhar said. 

Li-Cycle successfully completed a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger in August, listing its stock on the New York Stock Exchange and generating more than half a billion dollars in gross proceeds. 

Ahead of that transaction, the company set out in detail the risks and possible rewards of positioning itself to capture opportunities in the recycling space as large volumes of batteries from cars, electronics products and ESS become available and demand for batteries continues to grow with the rise of electrification. 

Lithium-ion battery recycling and recovery is critical for the electrification of transportation. Li-Cycle is a true leader in the space with proven innovative technology and a robust portfolio of customers and strategic partners. We’re confident in Li-Cycle’s cutting-edge technology and in the Company’s ability to deliver long-term value to its stakeholders throughout the battery supply chain,” Koch Strategic Platforms president David Park said.

In July Koch Strategic Platforms also committed to investing US$100 million in another energy storage company which has just gone through a SPAC merger, Eos Energy Enterprises.

Koch bought convertible senior notes at an initial conversion price of US$20 per share in Common Stock of Eos, which makes zinc-based electrochemical battery storage systems. Eos got a NASDAQ listing earlier this year and manufactures Znyth, an aqueous zinc battery storage technology which the company claims is suitable for long-duration applications requiring 3-12 hours of energy from facilities in Pittsburgh.  

Another battery recycling specialist in North America, Redwood Materials, recently announced it had raised more than US$700 million in investment to scale up its activities. Redwood CEO JB Straubel — former CTO at Tesla Motors — has said that recovered and recycled lithium battery materials can be just as valuable as those freshly extracted from the ground. 

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