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Recycling crucial to support India’s Li-ion EV battery manufacturing

The electric vehicle (EVs) is a rapidly growing segment in India, especially in the two-wheeler category, most of which are powered by lithium-ion batteries. At present, India majorly relies on imports to fulfill its demand for the elements required for manufacturing li-ion cells used in EV batteries due to the lack of raw materials on our shores.

As a result, the rapid growth ofelectric vehicles has created a pressing environmental challenge: what to do with the discarded batteries that represent both a resource and a hazard? In a conversation with TOI Auto, Vikrant Singh, CTO & Co-Founder of Bat X Energies, explains their business model, expertise, importance of environmental sustainability, and their plans for the future.

The company, which was founded only recently in 2020, reclaims and recycles essential Earth metals like Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel, and Manganese from discarded Lithium-ion cells and seamlessly reintegrates them into battery production.

Speaking about the company’s business model and challenges that it faces, Singh said “Our business model centers on producing battery-grade materials through recycling, particularly from sources like spent batteries from EV sector, electronics, telecom sector etc. Our zero waste zero emission proprietary technology facilitates therecycling process of these materials, which are commonly found in household items such as mobile phones and electric vehicles.

These materials, including lithium, cobalt, and nickel, find applications in various industries like pharmaceuticals, ceramics, paints, and electroplating.”

“However, the challenge lies in collecting batteries from diverse locations across India, resulting in high logistical costs and safety risks. To address this, we’ve devised a ‘Hub and Spoke’ strategy in collaboration with OEMs and channel partners.

This strategy streamlines the pickup of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries, enhances coordination, ensures compliance with regulations, and enhances traceability.”

Giving a glimpse of the steps involved in the recycling process, Singh elaborated “Our recycling process comprises both mechanical and chemical stages. The seven-layer mechanical process efficiently separates Black Mass from other materials, yielding high-grade Black Mass with minimal impurities.”

“Simultaneously, secondary materials like plastic, aluminum, steel, and copper are effectively separated for their respective applications. In the chemical (hydrometallurgy) stage, we employ reusable chemicals specifically synthesized for repetitive use. These chemicals extract rare earth metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, which are then reintroduced into the supply chain.” he added.

These materials are then supplied to battery cell manufacturers, closing the loop in thecircular economy for lithium-ion battery manufacturing and electric vehicles. Additionally, the company produces batteries from recycled materials and exports them to brands worldwide.

Singh, speaking on the importance of recyclingli-ion batteries and the threat they represent to the environment added “Few years back, while doing our research we found that li-ion batteries run for 3-7 years in EVs.

There is a huge hazardous waste stream that gets generated. Further, to manufacture lithium ion cells India doesn’t have any of the rare earth materials, therefore we will always be dependent on imports. The limited raw material supply chain made us work on the circular economy phenomenon.”

“E-waste improperly disposed of can severely harm the environment, including soil and water contamination and risks to human health, as lithium-ion batteries are host to toxic elements, including cobalt, nickel, and manganese.

Hence, the need for proper disposal and recycling of these batteries to minimize environmental impact has surged the need for lithium-ion battery recycling in India.”

While currently operating nationwide in India,BatX Energies told us about their bold expansion plans. Recognizing the challenges faced by countries without natural resources for critical raw materials in the electric mobility sector, they aim to enter markets such as South Africa, the USA, and Europe in the near future.

“We plan to bring advanced R&D for producing battery-grade materials, scaling up their capacity, and setting up micro facilities (spokes) across the country and aim to source and process locally. Through this it will also bring about an increase in job opportunities and a skilled workforce in the electronic waste management sector.” Singh noted.