ascend elements hopkinsville
At its planned Kentucky facility, Ascend will accept black mass from recycled electric vehicle (EV) batteries and produce lithium-ion battery precursor and recycled-content cathode active material.
Rendering courtesy of Ascend Elements

Ascend Elements plans black mass conversion plant in Kentucky

Massachusetts-based firm announces initial $310 million investment at Hopkinsville, Kentucky, location.

Ascend Elements, based in Westborough, Massachusetts, has announced plans to invest $310 million in what it calls Phase 1 of a complex that will operate as a “sustainable lithium-ion battery materials facility” in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

The company says the plant uses its Hydro-to-Cathode direct technology to take in black mass from recycled electric vehicle (EV) batteries and produce enough lithium-ion battery precursor and recycled-content cathode active material to equip up to 250,000 EVs per year.

Ascend Elements says it plans to break ground in the fourth quarter of this year and that additional plant expansion phases could result in a $1 billion total investment in Hopkinsivlle.

The company says its closed-loop manufacturing system generates minimal waste and carbon emissions compared to traditional cathode manufacturing. The Hopkinsville site will feature on-site chemical recycling capabilities and a wastewater treatment plant, Ascend says.

“I am incredibly proud of how we in Kentucky have taken the initiative to ensure our state will be a leader in the automotive industry of the future,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says. “The addition of Ascend Elements to Hopkinsville is a tremendous step toward building that foundation even further. This is a company focused on growing in a sustainable way and one that will benefit so many other businesses in our state and throughout North America.”

Ascend Elements CEO Michael O'Kronley says, “Clean energy and climate technology industries are bringing good jobs to communities across the country, and we couldn't be happier with our decision to locate Apex 1 in southwest Kentucky. We’re building something in Kentucky that doesn’t exist anywhere in the United States – a domestic source of sustainable lithium-ion cathode material for EV batteries.”

O’Kronley says Ascend looked at more than 50 locations for the facility. The Hopkinsville site, says the CEO, offers easy access to transportation, clean renewable power, a diverse workforce and proximity to EV manufacturers and lithium-ion battery factories in the southeastern United States.

The Ascend Elements Base 1 battery recycling facility in Covington, Georgia, will be “a key source” of recycled battery feedstock (black mass) for the Apex 1 facility, the firm says.

“We’re in the middle of a global energy transformation and it’s critical that we produce lithium-ion battery material in the U.S.,” O’Kronley says. “This new facility in Hopkinsville [will] go a long way toward making electric vehicle batteries cleaner.”

The planned facility will be on about 140 acres in the Commerce Industrial Park II in Hopkinsville. The 500,000-square-foot Apex 1 facility will begin operations in late 2023, Ascend says.