Altilium Metals, a UK clean energy group, plans to accelerate the development of the UK’s largest EV battery recycling plant, following completion of a six-month feasibility study, funded partly by the UK government’s Automotive Transformation Fund, and the first successful demonstration of its proprietary technology at its newly opened analytical laboratory.
Altilium says that its technology can recover more than 95% of the critical metals and 80% of battery value. The technology has already been proven at the laboratory scale under a research program in partnership with the University of Plymouth and results in a 35% cost-saving and 38% reduction in emissions compared to the mining of virgin material.
The spent cathode material is leached in acid, with the resulting metals and lithium being separated by selective precipitation and the graphite extracted as a purified solid. The final product is a chemical combination of metals and lithium which can be sold direct to battery manufacturers (ready-made) at a premium of 30%, compared to pure metals which requires further processing.
The study, carried out in collaboration with international consultancy Hatch, highlights the critical role that a large-scale EV battery recycling industry could play in attracting further investment in the construction of new gigafactories in the UK, and sets out the business case for Altilium Metals’ planned recycling plant in Teesside.
The UK plant designed by Hatch will have the capacity to process 50,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery black mass, equivalent to approximately 150,000 electric vehicles per year or 10 GWh of lithium-ion batteries. It is designed to process a mix of different battery chemistries, including LCO, LFP and NMC.
To compensate for any shortage of feed and imbalances in quality, it also has the optionality to process primary nickel-cobalt MHP, which will be sourced from Altilium Metals’ existing supply chain.
The plant will consist of two processing facilities, a chemical plant producing 95,000 MT of battery precursors, including lithium carbonate and nickel sulphate, and a cathode active material plant, producing 30,000 MT of CAM, the highest margin component and final material format in a battery cell.
Production of CAM allows full battery circularity and a unique customer offering to automotive OEMs, allowing collection of spent batteries and plant scrap and return of CAM for direct reuse in new cell production.
Altilium Metals is currently the only company in the UK recovering critical minerals from end-of-life EV battery waste on a demonstration line, at its EV battery technology centre in Devon, allowing the company to scale recycling innovations faster and speed up its time-to-market.
The company was recently awarded a permit from the UK Environment Agency to recycle EV battery black mass at the tonne scale—the first of its kind and currently the only one in the UK.
The feasibility study notes that by 2030, the UK will need 150,000 tonnes a year of cathode active materials (CAM) for the production of lithium-ion batteries needed to power EVs manufactured in the UK (according to research by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC)).
Earlier this month, Altilium announced a partnership with the University of Southern California with the intention of expanding into the US market.
According to new research by McKinsey, revenues across the battery recycling value chain—from collection to metal recovery—will grow to more than $95 billion a year by 2040 globally. This growth will be predominantly driven by the price of the recovered metals, expected battery cell chemistry adoption, and regionalization of supply chains.
The monetary value generated per ton of battery material could approach approximately $600 by as early as 2025. Going forward, McKinsey expects the value creation potential to grow to similar levels to the primary metals industry, which is around 30% depending on price developments.