Ascend Elements scaling up recycled lithium-ion battery production

Ascend Elements

Lithium-ion battery recycling has been a point of contention in the renewable energy space, but some U.S.-based companies are starting to emerge with new li-ion recycling methods that could hopefully change that. Ascend Elements, for example, is hyping a recycling process and patented cathode engineering technology that produces a more sustainable NMC li-ion battery for EVs and standalone storage applications — and recently signed a multi-year supply contract with a major company.

Ascend Elements uses a patented process known as Hydro-to-Cathode direct precursor synthesis to manufacture NMC pCAM and cathode active material (CAM) recovered from used lithium-ion batteries and battery gigafactory manufacturing scrap. The closed-loop process eliminates several intermediary steps in the traditional cathode manufacturing process.

The Ascend Elements facility in Hopkinsville, Ken., will be a cathode manufacturing facility with capacity to produce NMC pCAM for up to 750,000 electric vehicles per year. In October 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded two matching grants totaling $480 million to Ascend Elements to help accelerate construction of the southwest Kentucky facility. Overall, the company plans to invest more than $1 billion in the facility.

“Nearly 100% of the world’s pCAM is produced in Asia,” said Mike O’Kronley, CEO of Ascend Elements. “There is no reason we can’t manufacture critical battery materials like this in the United States. In fact, we need to manufacture our own battery materials to secure the supply chain in North America, reduce carbon emissions and ensure our energy independence.”

Ascend Elements recently signed a multi-year contract to supply approximately $1 billion worth of sustainable pCAM for use in a major U.S. company’s battery manufacturing process, beginning in Q4 2024. Under the terms of the agreement, the customer has the option to expand the contract to a larger quantity with a value of up to $5 billion.

The deal signals a shift in worldwide battery material supply chains as Ascend Elements builds one of North America’s first commercial-scale NMC pCAM manufacturing facilities in southwest Kentucky.

For more on this, Ascend points to this peer-reviewed study that show how its recycled battery materials perform compared to similar materials made from virgin (or mined) sources.

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