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Company aims to answer most common argument of electric vehicle skeptics: ‘We are providing a key part of that overall transition’

“We’re starting with a highly concentrated source.”

“We’re starting with a highly concentrated source."

Photo Credit: iStock

Among the most pointed criticisms of the electric vehicle industry among skeptics is batteries. 

Batteries, despite their obvious usefulness, are seen by some as expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to recycle. Those who can’t let go of dirty-fuel-powered transportation use these views as ammunition when decrying advancements in EVs that produce zero tailpipe pollution. 

But improvements on those first two points are in development, and progress on recycling has gotten another significant boost.

United States-based company Ascend Elements has secured $542 million in funding to build a factory in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, that will turn old lithium-ion batteries into precursor cathode active materials (pCAM) and cathode active materials (CAM). 

Canary Media reported the company had already earned $480 million in funding from the Department of Energy, and the Kentucky facility is expected to require the full $1 billion obtained in those investments. 

“There’s a lot of activity, a lot of investment that’s going to support the energy transition,” company CEO Mike O’Kronley told the publication. ​“We are providing a key part of that overall transition, with respect to batteries. We’re helping to make batteries more sustainable.”

The pCAM and CAM made in the recycling process will be used in future lithium-ion battery production. They will be made from the “black mass” that is formed in the recycling process, which is a mixture of lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel. 

According to Canary Media, the completed factory will be able to provide enough materials to make 750,000 EV batteries a year. 

In addition to keeping batteries out of landfills, which would pose a serious fire hazard, the recycling process reduces the need for mining new materials, which is costly and leads to the destruction of the environment. 

Citing peer-reviewed research, Canary Media noted that cathode materials from recycled metals have a minimal drop in performance compared to those made from newly mined sources. 

Furthermore, Ascend Elements told the publication that using recycled batteries to do so avoids the need to mine, ship, and refine raw materials, which leads to a carbon pollution reduction of 93%. 

“We’re starting with a highly concentrated source,” O’Kronley said. ​“We just process it, purify it, and make these materials directly.”

So the next time someone tells you that EVs are as bad for the environment as traditional internal combustion engine cars in terms of recycling, just point them towards the work Ascend Elements is doing. 

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