June 1, 2023

Driving battery recycling and second-life solutions | Chat with Rajat Verma, Founder & CEO, LOHUM

Extended producer responsibility drives ecosystem From waste to value

LOHUM is a leading organization in the field of battery recycling and second-life solutions for lithium-ion batteries (LIBS). The company is among very few Indian LIB lifecycle management firms currently refining the black mass locally to recover valuable battery raw material. Rajat Verma, the Founder & CEO of LOHUM, is spearheading their efforts. In this exclusive interview with a reporter, he shares their work, scale, and vision for LIB lifecycle management.

What is the current scale of operations and capacity at LOHUM? Which activities in the end-of-life management of LIBs, like Battery Recycling, does LOHUM undertake?

Currently, LOHUM can annually recycle 2 GWh of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries at its ‘Reclaim’ facility, the largest of its kind in India, and repurpose 500 mWh of batteries into second-life solutions. The operations are ably supported by our NEETMM-integrated battery recycling, repurposing, and low-carbon extraction process. LOHUM, as of mid-2023, is a team of around 500 people undertaking the complete end-to-end lifecycle management of LIBS, investing significantly in R&D. LOHUM is slated to save 4 million tons of CO2e, equal to the CO2e Of 15 Million Flights between Delhi and Mumbai by 2026.

What are the spent LIB collection mechanism or collection channels used by LOHUM for battery recycling?

Our reverse logistics network spans all of India and beyond and collects lithium-ion batteries from OEMs. Via proprietary battery transport technologies, we ensure the safe and scientific transit of batteries to us at rapid time scales.

All batteries are bar-coded and made traceable from the onset, and in India, we can pick up batteries within 24 Hrs from Tier 1 Cities and 48 Hrs from Tier 2 Cities.

What is the current mix of LIB chemistries that comes to LOHUM facilities for battery recycling and repurposing? How do you expect the mix to evolve going forward?

Our facilities can process all kinds of batteries. Most of the battery recycling we currently doing are from consumer electronics, which are predominantly LCO. In the future, we expect the mix to change in favor of NMC and LFP as an effect of the growth of electric mobility and renewable ESS markets.

For battery reuse or ‘repurposing, we predominantly receive NMC and LFP batteries.

Are LOHUM’s battery recycling operations restricted to mechanical separation and production of black mass? Or are you refining the black mass powder into battery materials?

LOHUM’S NEETM™ is a multi-stage hydro-metallurgical lithium-ion battery material recycling and extraction technology, which means that this technology uses liquid solutions such as acids to leech out or ‘precipitate refined battery metal salts as well as impurities with high recovery rates. We thus not only mechanically separate and produce black mass, but we also refine the black mass to recover 95% of battery raw materials.

The recycled salts exist in the same form as new salts derived from mining, making them indistinguishable from their virgin counterparts. This means that the recycled salts can be recomposed into new battery molecules for the production of brand-new Li-ion batteries on par with those made from mined metals. This virtually infinite battery recycling can thus be leveraged with technology to reduce dependence on mining and ensure the sustainability of the energy transition ecosystem.

Please tell us about your association with MG Motors and Mercedes-Benz Energy.

The MG India and LOHUM partnership, which began in June 2023, aims to develop the concept of second-life solutions for batteries, ensuring their efficient utilization and contributing to a closed-loop energy economy. The project will harness the potential of used EV batteries by repurposing them as Battery Energy Storage Products (BESS), effectively extending their life cycle and optimizing resource usage. The initial offering under this partnership will be a 100% Off-Grid, 5kWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) to meet the essential energy needs of urban and rural India by solving the end-of-life EV battery problem and organizing the battery waste sector. The BESS will provide uninterrupted power supply even in regions with unreliable grid infrastructure.

Mercedes-Benz Energy and LOHUM have been working together for nearly two years. The partnership agreement signed in January 2023 will enable LOHUM to secure high volumes of second-use battery modules from Mercedes-Benz Energy. LOHUM is Mercedes-Benz Energy’s first partner in Asia. The agreement includes Mercedes-Benz Energy and LOHUM committing to a minimum offtake schedule of 50MWh per annum across multiple 2nd life module variants and battery recycling them at the end of life.

How do you plan to support OEMS with their EPR requirements?

As a BWMR (Battery Waste Management Rules 2022) registered Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) partner, LOHUM takes care of everything from traceability to data and technology expertise for OEMs, providing end-to-end battery lifecycle management. This involves helping OEMs meet their EPR obligations by assisting with CPCB registration, ensuring regulatory compliance for battery packs, producing recycled raw materials, facilitating seamless collection, achieving traceable zero-waste material recovery, and offsetting collection deficits through battery scrap import and recycling, complete with EPR certificates that serve as proof of recycling,

All these services are made available to the OEMS via an EPR portal that enables transparent access to all documentation and the live status of every battery. Future-proof battery buyback and battery material price information are also made available on LOHUM’S DETXTM battery buyback and battery raw materials index, insulating OEMs against price volatility.

Please tell us about your association with Glencore. What are the products that you have planned to supply to them?

LOHUM partnered with Glencore in September 2022 to advance circularity in the energy transition raw materials supply chain. Under the alliance, LOHUM will supply Glencore with 10,000 MT of specialty battery chemicals over the next five years, including cathodes, sulfates, carbonates, and oxides of various metals extracted from spent batteries and other sources. The global partnership will allow both companies to deepen their recycling expertise and support the advancement of a circular economy by supplying raw materials back into the battery supply chain.

What are the application areas for the batteries produced at your plant?

We produce affordable and smart AIS-156-compliant Lithium-ion batteries for low-power e-mobility in tough environments, i.e., 2-wheelers and 3-Wheelers or L5 vehicles. And second life batteries via our proprietary battery testing, valuation, and repurposing technology. LOHUM’s second-life stationary Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) serve a variety of applications ranging from EV Charging stations to BESS for homes. businesses, grid stabilization, and emergency services. All our BESS variants come with significant customizability and a wide range of configurations to power every use case and fit most requirements.

Any comments on the economic lucrativeness of the battery recycling business?

Lithium ion cell make up the spine of the current energy transition. However, mining for battery raw materials incurs environmental and humanitarian costs that the world is striving to minimize with increasing concern. Battery recycling can produce a sustainable supply of critical battery minerals for a nation’s domestic battery ecosystem. This will result in lower battery manufacturing costs, increased self-reliance, reduced imports, and reduced dependence on mining.

By 2030, the production scrap available for recycling will reach around 1280 kilo tons, and end-of-life scrap will reach approximately 800 kilo tons. In total, by the end of 2030, we will have around 2000 kilo tons of battery scrap that can go into recycling.

The current energy transition metals market has a volume of $10.69 in 100 billion dollars, and by 2030 it is projected to reach $14.85 in 100 billion dollars. Thus, growing battery recycling at a rapid pace is now widely accepted as a prerequisite for the lithium battery manufacturing industry to truly take off and meet consumer demand.

At what scale do the battery recycling and repurposing operations become profitable?

LOHUM has been a profitable business for the last 3 years with an impressive growth rate. We have been able to demonstrate profitable recycling at scales as low as 1 GWh. In the future, we can expect recycling plants to host 10x to 100x times the capacity.

Our key products cater to battery and cell manufacturers in the industry. Over the last four years, we have created the technology and infrastructure to recycle and refine the equivalent of battery materials to potentially power over 50,000 EVs every year.

Please tell us about your international presence and plans for expanding battery recycling.

As of 2023, the company holds a market share in India of around 70%, and we export a large share of our products. Today, our customers and partners are all across the globe in the US, EU. Middle East, and Africa. We are expanding our partnerships in each of these geographies.

We are currently expanding to the US to increase our upstream capacity, and our immediate upcoming expansion plan is setting up our 4th factory in Greater Noida. We are also expanding our manufacturing footprint globally with soon-to-launch facilities in US, EU, and UAE. Additionally, we are acting to set up upstream capacities in the EU while maintaining and expanding downstream capacities in India.

We also plan to develop sustainable low-carbon extraction technologies in the areas of precious rare earth & critical metals to enable LOHUM and India to be at the forefront of the energy storage ecosystem. R&D in sustainable materials is at the core of our company, and currently, we continue to designate 5% of our annual revenue to R&D

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