The Canadian company Li-Cycle has announced its fourth commercial recycling plant for lithium-ion batteries. The new plant in Tuscaloosa in the US state of Alabama is expected to start operations in mid-2022. The Mercedes plant there will probably be an important supplier.
Initially, up to 5,000 tonnes per year will be processed there, according to Li-Cycle. The plant in Tuscaloosa will increase Li-Cycle’s total recycling capacity in North America to 25,000 tonnes per year.
Li-Cycle justifies the construction of the factory called “Spoke 4” with the “far exceeded expectations” – actually only three factories were planned. “The southeastern United States is becoming a critical region for the lithium-ion battery supply chain as battery manufacturers and automotive OEMs establish operations in the region, which will result in the generation of significant amounts of battery scrap and end-of-life batteries,” the statement now reads.
The company Univar Solutions is named as an important partner for the supply of waste batteries to “Spoke 4”. Univar is actually a chemical distributor, but also supplies numerous automotive customers with raw materials. Tuscaloosa itself is home to a large Daimler plant, where the large SUV series GLE and GLS, for example, are manufactured. The plant is currently preparing to produce the SUV offshoots of the EQE and EQS in the future.
“We have a responsibility not only to manufacture vehicles and batteries, but also to be good corporate citizens in the decisions we make to protect our environment and the community around us,” says Michael Goebel, President and CEO, Mercedes-Benz US International (MBUSI) – the Mercedes subsidiary that operates the plant. MBUSI is working with Univar on end-of-life solutions for lithium-ion batteries. “We welcome the partnership between Univar Solutions and Li-Cycle and the strong commitment of our partners here in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to drive a sustainable future for mobility,” Goebel said.
From Alabama, Li-Cycle could also cover Volkswagen’s vehicle plants in Chattanooga, Tennessee, BMW’s Spartanburg in South Carolina and SK Innovation’s cell plant in Georgia.
“Our new Alabama plant positions us well to meet the growing demand for lithium-ion battery recycling,” said Tim Johnston, co-founder and executive chairman of Li-Cycle. “We originally planned to build three commercial Spoke facilities in North America over the next five years with a total recycling capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year. However, demand for lithium-ion battery recycling continues to exceed our projections and we now forecast a total recycling capacity of 30,000 tonnes per year. This facility is essential to fill a recycling gap in the southeastern US.”
The first facility is located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. A second facility (also the first in the US) was announced in September 2020 in Rochester, New York State, and is now operational. The third recycling plant is being built in Gilbert, Arizona. According to the announcement from April 2021, a capacity of 10,000 tonnes of used batteries per year is planned there, twice as much as in Tuscaloosa.
However, the Alabama site is to follow suit: The Tuscaloosa site is “also being developed for a future, second 5,000-tonne processing line”, Li-Cycle said. With 10,000 tonnes at this site as well, the total capacity of all plants would rise to 30,000 tonnes.
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