SYDNEY, Oct. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Australian battery recycling startup, Renewable Metals, has received $8 million in seed funding from the CEFC (via Virescent Ventures), Investible (the lead investor via its early-stage Climate Tech Fund), Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and others to scale and commercialise its groundbreaking lithium-ion battery recycling technology.
The funds will be used to stand up a pilot plant in Perth, WA, and bring forward the construction of a larger scale demonstration plant capable of recycling up to 1,500 tonnes per year of battery waste.
They will also be used to expand the Renewable Metals team as it seeks to build an Australian battery recycling industry – which CSIRO has estimated could help to recover up to $3.1 billion of valuable battery materials and metals – as well as a global presence.
Renewable Metals uses an alkaline leaching process that eliminates the need to pre-process to black mass (crushed battery cells), simplifies the extraction process, and reduces the cost by up to 30 percent compared to competitors without creating a secondary waste problem (disposal of sodium sulfate).
This process has achieved metal recovery rates of greater than 95 percent at pilot scale, including for lithium, which is significantly higher than that demonstrated in published competitor data.
Excitingly, this process can also be applied to numerous battery chemistries, which will become increasingly critical as LFP (lithium ferro phosphate) batteries become a larger portion of the market, and for which other processes are not economically attractive.
According to Renewable Metals, this creates one of the most important technological breakthroughs in the development of renewable energy technologies.
Renewable Metals CEO, Luan Atkinson said: “To decarbonise quickly, the world needs cost-effective recycling solutions that maximise recovery for all types of lithium batteries – not just the higher-value ones with nickel and cobalt. We’re thrilled to be backed by the CEFC and Virescent Ventures, Grantham Foundation, and Investible. Their support will accelerate our scale-up plans and help create 2 to 3 times more value than the current Australian practice of exporting batteries or black mass for recycling overseas.”
Virescent Ventures Partner, Blair Pritchard said: “The CEFC is backing Renewable Metals with a $2.5 million investment toward an excellent example of Australian innovation in the battery and critical minerals space. 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. 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.”
“The Renewable Metals process is capable of retrieving up to 95 percent of the valuable metals from an end-of-life battery, which is around 20 percent more lithium than existing recycling facilities. This makes it ideal for recycling of lithium ferro-phosphate batteries, which have not yet been economical to recycle.”
Investible Investment Manager, Ben Lindsay said: “Investible’s Climate Tech Fund is thrilled to have led this round in Renewable Metals, which brings a vital input to electrification to Australia. The company’s proprietary closed loop system is reducing the initial carbon footprint of EVs while helping address a bottleneck and major anti-EV argument, with less harsh chemicals and by-products, at a lower cost.”
Demand for batteries is forecast to increase 18-fold over 2020 levels driven by rapidly-growing demand for EVs and stationary storage, while lithium-ion battery production capacity is expected to reach 5 terra-watt hours (TWh) in 2030.
Yet current mines are only capable of producing enough lithium (685,000 tonnes) for 15.5 million EVs, which is only 18 percent of all light vehicle production today and therefore significantly less than required.
Furthermore, only 1.2 million additional tonnes of lithium are expected to become available by 2033, which would support significantly less than half of light vehicles transitioning to EVs.
In 2021, only 10 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste was recycled, compared to 99 percent of lead battery waste.
Renewable Metals was founded by a team of experienced metallurgists and was awarded the inaugural Supercharge Australia Innovation Challenge Award earlier this year for its technological developments.
Virescent Ventures (www.virescent.vc) is Australia’s largest, most experienced, and most active Australian climate tech VC firm. It invests in pre-seed to late-stage software and hardware companies solving the world’s biggest problem: climate change. Since 2016 it has built a portfolio of over $211 million invested in more than 27 opportunities through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) Innovation Fund.
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SOURCE Virescent Ventures