Lithium battery recycling in India


pv magazine: What are the challenges to battery energy storage manufacturing in India?

Nitin Gupta: The Prime Minister of India has set an ambitious target of 500 GW of non-fossil fuel-based energy generation in India by 2030 and a reduction of one billion tonnes in total projected carbon emissions by 2030. To meet these targets, India will need to ramp up its grid storage and significantly increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs). This, however, necessitates increasing local manufacturing, exploring new avenues, and allowing global competition in emerging sectors such as energy storage.

The production-linked incentive scheme for advanced-chemistry battery cells (PLI-ACC Scheme) permits a technology-agnostic approach. It allows the beneficiary firm to select any suitably advanced technology, the corresponding plant and machinery, raw materials, and other intermediate goods to establish a cell manufacturing facility to cater to any application.

The programme envisions an investment that will boost domestic manufacturing while also facilitating the creation of battery storage demand for electric vehicles and stationary storage and the development of a complete domestic supply chain and foreign direct investment in the country. 

While the plan has its heart in the right place, a few things still need to be fine-tuned. The timelines for localization appear to be too stringent, considering the lack of requisite manufacturing infrastructure and export base in the country. Incentives under the PLI-ACC Scheme will be disbursed only after the committed domestic value addition and actual sale of the ACCs. The bid documents call for a quarterly subsidy disbursement for the beneficiary company and certification from an independent engineer. The extent of the subsidy will vary depending on the engineer’s approval, affecting the practical implementation and timeliness of such disbursement. Furthermore, the above-mentioned subsidy limit will have to be considered when disbursing the subsidies.

The PLI-ACC Scheme provides that the beneficiary must achieve a domestic value addition of at least 25% and incur the mandatory investment (INR 225 crore/GWh) within two years. A penalty is levied every day beyond the timelines set for such localization.

pv magazine: What India must do to address supply chain concerns? 

China controls more than 97% of the world’s lithium supply even though it does not have any significant lithium mines. It created a refining infrastructure for lithium and became a dominant player globally.

India should take the lead in becoming the Li-ion battery recycling hub of the world. To do so, we have to ensure that we recycle all the Li-ion batteries in an environment-friendly manner. We also need to ensure maximum recovery of battery materials like cobalt, lithium, nickel, graphite, manganese, and copper. Both of these can be ensured by having the right recycling technologies in place, which is where Attero is right now.   

India is already taking steps in this direction and is on the path of becoming ‘Atamnirbhar.’ We as a country also realize that recycling will play an important part in making us self-reliant. On the policy front, there have been a lot of initiatives taken in the recent past, and we should start seeing results soon. 

The global recycling industry is growing at a CAGR of 19.6% and is expected to reach $22.8 billion by 2030, up from $4.6 billion today. The extraction efficiency of Attero Recycling’s process is greater than 98% for all battery materials (cobalt, lithium, graphite, nickel, and manganese).

pv magazine: Does India have the right policies and schemes to ensure a circular economy for batteries? 

The government has been taking steps to promote a circular economy and encourage the concept of recycling. The government is also in the process of introducing extended producer responsibility (EPR) for Li-ion batteries. Under this, manufacturers will become accountable for the entire lifecycle of Li-ion batteries. Steps are also being taken to pump in more investments in the space. 

Recycling is the best way to ensure our country’s long-term development. Metals account for more than 30% of a li-Ion battery in value terms. We do not have cobalt or lithium reserves in India. We can help India become ‘Atamnirbhar’ in these critical battery materials by recycling the end-of-life batteries. As India continues to leapfrog and prepare for the EV era, lithium-ion battery waste is expected to increase by 40-80%year on year. To brace for this revolution, we should also start preparing to manage and recycle the lithium-ion waste that these cars will produce. 

pv magazine: What Attero Recycling has to offer?  

Attero Recycling is India’s only end-to-end e-waste recycling company. We have a commercial plant operational, where we recycle all kinds of lithium-ion batteries, be they from mobile phones, laptops, telecom towers, or EVs. Through our world-class proprietary technology, we can extract battery-grade cobalt, pure pharmaceutical-grade lithium carbonate, and pure battery-grade nickel.  

We sell all the extracted metals back into the market and complete the circular economy value chain. Our clients include Samsung, LG, Whirlpool, Godrej, Hitachi, Daikin, Foxconn, Flextronics, Oppo Vivo, Hyundai, MG Motors, and Maruti Suzuki to name a few. 

In India, over 50,000 tonnes of li-ion battery waste is produced every year. Attero, through its globally patented and NASA-approved technology, is recycling close to a thousand tonnes of li-ion batteries every year at its Roorkee facility. We are investing INR 300 crore in expanding our lithium-ion recycling capacity 11-fold from 1,000 tonnes to 11,000 tonnes per annum by October with the aim to capture 22% of the market share. We are also more than doubling our overall e-waste management capacity to 300,000 tonnes per annum by the end of 2022. For 2030, Attero has set a target to produce 200 GWh equivalent of lithium through urban mining.

Attero is also the world’s only e-waste/li-ion battery recycling company to receive carbon credits for each tonne of waste recycled. The United Nations (UNFCC) provided the Carbon Credit certification based on the fact that the amount of energy required to extract one gram of any metal using Attero’s recycling process is significantly less than the amount of energy required to extract the same metal from a virgin mine or any other secondary source of that material. Attero has been granted over 31 global patents and has applied for over 200 global patents for in-house recycling technologies.


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