Companies set up plants to tap $1-billion business in recycling Li-ion batteries

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Published: October 28, 2019 11:14:29 AM

JMK Research, a Delhi-based power consultancy and advisory firm, estimates the recycling market in India to pick up from 2022 when lithium-ion batteries, presently in use, would reach their end of life

The cumulative recycling battery market in India is estimated to increase from 0.4 GWh in 2020 to more than 80 GWh by 2030.The cumulative recycling battery market in India is estimated to increase from 0.4 GWh in 2020 to more than 80 GWh by 2030.

Companies across sectors — in electric vehicles (EVs), solar power, and chemical space — could be looking at a $1-billion opportunity in the recycling of lithium-ion batteries between 2022 and 2030, as existing batteries reach their end of life by 2022.

Going by the battery manufacturing targets set by NITI Aayog, under its energy storage mission, by 2030, the cumulative lithium-ion battery recycling market is estimated to be about 160 GWh. However, this target is considered as highly aggressive and difficult to achieve, given current adoption of EV vehicles and inadequate storage facilities at solar projects.

JMK Research, a Delhi-based power consultancy and advisory firm, estimates the recycling market in India to pick up from 2022 when lithium-ion batteries, presently in use, would reach their end of life. In 2030, the annual recycling market is expected to be around 22-23 GWh, which is a $1,000-million ($1-billion) opportunity. The cumulative recycling battery market in India is estimated to increase from 0.4 GWh in 2020 to more than 80 GWh by 2030.

The assumptions are based on growth in EVs and drop in battery prices in the last two years. According to Bloomberg data, the price of Lithium-ion batteries has fallen to an average of $200/kWh in the last two years from $1200/kWh in 2010, and is expected to fall to $94/kWh in 2025 and to $62/kWh by 2030. Decline in the current prices was expected over four years. Also, the EV vehicles count across the two-wheeler, three-wheeler and the four-wheeler segments have grown to 7.5 lakh units in 2019 from 3 lakh units in 2017, witnessing growth of 148%.

Tata Chemicals launched its pilot lithium-ion battery recycling operations in Mumbai in August, and plans to scale it up to recycle 500 tonne of spent lithium-ion batteries in near future. Similarly, Raasi Solar has announced plans to set up a 300-MW plant, focusing on lithium battery recycling, battery assembling and cell manufacturing. Mahindra Electric, the EV arm of M&M, has revealed plans to enable EV battery recycling, in a method similar to the recycling of cell phone batteries, with the help of supply partner.

There are other players such as Exigo Recycling, Attero, EMM and Fortum, among others, who are already in the market recycling lithium-ion batteries from electronic wastes generated from mobile phones, laptops, power banks and telecom towers. Raman Sharma, co-founder and director of Exigo Recycling, told FE, “Considering the kind of opportunity coming up in India, we are setting up a lithium-ion recycling plant in Panipat, which will be commissioned by December, and process around 5,000 metric tonne of Lithium-ion batteries. To begin with, we expect the utilisation levels to be around 25% in the first year, which will grow between 10% and 15% y-o-y,” Sharma said.

“We have the capacity to process a single battery size ranging from 5 gm to 550 kg in our plant. Besides, the lithium content is only 7-8% of the total battery size. We have an end-to-end facility to recycle not just the lithium but all the contents, including rare metals like cobalt and also plastics,” Sharma said.
At present, the total IT and electronic waste generation is close to 75,000 mt to 100,000 mt per annum. A fair estimate for lithium-ion battery is put at 2% of this waste.

Sohinder Gill, CEO of Hero Electric, and director general of SMEV (Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles) said considering the opportunity coming up in recycling of batteries, many technology players in Europe want to partner Indian companies for recycling of Lithium-ion batteries.

“Although we cannot disclose the names, these companies are showing manufacturing size models that can be set up in India as against the lab size models that were present earlier,” he said.

“We are confident of opportunities but given the current challenges the commercial viability of recycling will happen only after 2024 as the volumes in the EV segment is still very less. However, if we take into consideration the stationery application batteries it becomes viable, since we already have the technology in the space,” Gill said.

It is a very capital intensive business, which will require people with deep pockets and ability to wait for returns,” Gill said.

Industry players believe there are innumerable challenges and risks in closed-loop recycling of lithium ion batteries. The technology for these batteries is still emerging. The design differences make the adoption of a uniform recycling process very difficult and reduce process efficiency. Also, the current recycling efficiency of about 50% of the economic value, along with high recycling cost, makes the process a costly affair. According to industry sources, the cost of recycling a lithium ion battery in India is about Rs 90-100/ kg. Collection and transportation of waste lithium ion batteries is a difficult task. At present, less than 5% of the lithium-ion batteries that are spent, are being collected today, However, with the growth of the lithium-ion battery market and standardisation of its compositions, these challenges would eventually subside.

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