Singapore-based Green Li-ion, a maker of hydrometallurgical systems to recycle lithium-ion batteries, has received investments from multiple sources in a recent funding round. The additional cash comes at the same time the company’s first large-scale system prepares to go live in the United States and as it has signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) for additional systems.
Leon Farrant, CEO and co-founder of Green Li-ion, says the company’s pilot system in Singapore remains operational. “We’re fabricating our first big one right now in Texas,” he says.
Farrant and co-founder, Chief Technology Officer Dr. Reza Katal, say this first large-scale hydrometallurgical recycling plant will be installed at a LiNiCo Corp. facility near Reno, Nevada, after the large components make an escorted trip (think “wide load” signs) from Texas to the Silver State.
The MoUs signed or being finalized reveal the global nature of Green Li-ion’s business. Farrant says the signed MoUs are with Malaysia-based Pestech International and United Kingdom-based Ever Resource Ltd. Installations in India and Taiwan may also be in the offing, pending the finalization of agreements.
Success on the sales front necessitated the firm’s involvement in capital markets, Farrant says. “It’s important to begin manufacturing globally at scale,” he comments. Portions of the secured and pledged $10 million in funding also will go “considerably toward the R&D [research and development] budget,” he adds.
On the R&D front, Farrant cites “the development of our next-generation machine, which can produce not only precursor and cathode material but also pure metal sulfates” as one priority. He adds, “We’re also looking at applying this technology to solar panels.”
In addition to manufacturing and R&D, Farrant says Green Li-ion intends to bolster its intellectual property protection infrastructure. In the next two years, he envisions Green Li-Ion “tripling in size from a headcount perspective.”
The recent funding attention did not come from one single investor, but from a consortium, Farrant says. He lists London-based Energy Revolution Ventures as a lead investor. That firm also played a role in funding Canada-based lithium-ion battery recycler LiCycle, helping it prepare for its initial public offering (IPO).
Additional Green Li-ion investors include two from South Korea—venture capital firm Envisioning Partners and conglomerate IS Dongseo. Also on board are New Jersey-based environmental fund SOS Ventures and Houston-based MB Energy Partners, which Farrant says has a background in the energy and banking sectors.
The 2022 funding follows an earlier round announced in March 2021 that elicited support from Singapore-based IT lifecycle services provider TES; Nevada-based LiNiCo Corp.; San Francisco-based venture capital firm HAX-SOSV and London-based seed capital provider Entrepreneur First (EF).
Green Li-ion and its investors are addressing a recycling market that is in its infancy. A study recently published in The Journal of the Indian Institute of Science places a 1 percent recycling rate on lithium-ion batteries globally.
The authors of the study, based at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn, portray a stark contrast between the recycling rate of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs) and that for lead-acid batteries, used in internal combustion engine vehicles. Those batteries are recycled at a 99 percent rate globally.
Farrant says EV battery producers are very much among companies being approached by Green Li-ion as potential customers. “We’re working with battery manufacturers, but we try to set ourselves apart by producing cathode material faster than anyone in the market,” Farrant says of the metals (lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, copper, iron, aluminum and precious metals) resulting from the Green Li-ion hydrometallurgical process.
That battery-material-to-battery material outcome is closer to replicating the closed-loop model that has been established by lead-acid battery producers. “Lead-acid batteries have been around for a long time, so recycling has greatly evolved,” says Nikhil Gupta, a leader of the Tandon study. “Because the architecture of lead-acid batteries has not changed substantially over the years, recyclers know how to do it quickly and efficiently,” Gupta adds.
The co-precipitation hydrometallurgical technology used by Green Li-ion offers a similar advantage in the lithium-ion space, Farrant says. “The technology is able to recycle a myriad of lithium-ion batteries at once using one system with our GLMC-1 machine at the heart of it."
Farrant and Katal describe their lithium-ion battery methodology as faster, cleaner and up to four times more profitable than other processes of which they are aware. “This year is shaping up as one where the wider battery and recycling sectors reach that same conclusion—it has started out on a very encouraging note,” Farrant says.