Electric vehicles are often seen as the primary platform to decarbonise road transport. However, one of the key concerns is tackling the end-of-life options or recycling of electric vehicles. While there are many startups in the new product space, there hasn’t been much traction in the recycling space. This is exactly the space that Attero Recycling is betting big on.
At present, the company has the capacity to recycle 3,500 tonnes, which is being expanded to 6,000 tonnes per annum. In addition, it has also commissioned a new plant in Telangana which will expand its capacity to 12,000 to 13,000 tonnes. This is still a small fraction of the humongous global needs as millions of lithium-ion batteries need to be recycled properly or else it could lead to a lot of hazardous waste being dumped in an untreated manner.
“Majority of our customers are outside India. So, cobalt, lithium graphite and nickel have uses apart from batteries. Cobalt is used in the steel industry and specialty chemicals industry, lithium carbonate is used in the pharmaceutical industry and specialty chemicals industry, nickel has multiple uses, graphite is used in India, and other prior factors as well, especially in sort of graphite anodes and electrodes,” said Nitin Gupta, CEO & Co-Founder, Attero Recycling.
Coming to funding, Gupta added Attero is a profitable company and is on track to clock revenue of Rs 600 crore and grow steadily. “We are always looking at figuring out the best course of capital allocation for the company and for the project. We continuously raise both equity and debt and right now are in the process of closing an equity round also.” But he remained tight-lipped about the exact number.
Expansion and Poland plant
Currently, electric vehicle sales in India are primarily driven by the two- and three-wheeler segments, but the four-wheeler segment is expected to catch up fast. Thanks to a slew of launches and introduction of electric variants or new introductions in the mass market models by Indian and global OEMs.
Then there is the number of investments by existing and new players in the lithium-ion battery segment, which means Attero Recycling will not need to completely depend on international sourcing.
“We have technology that is modular in nature, and it is our interest to set up at least 3 or more plants in India so that it can absorb that capacity going forward,” pointed out Gupta and added that the company will set-up at least 5 plants in the next 3 years in India. Attero also has big plans for its Polish facility, explained Gupta, “We have a wholly owned subsidiary in Europe. The land for the plant has been finalised and environmental permit applications are going on. We expect to commission the Polish plant within this year.”
Talking with Indian players
At the moment lithium-ion cells are being imported by most Indian companies and there are no major manufacturers in India. But, in recent times their action has been picking up as players like Exide, Amara Raja Group and the Tata Group, Log9 Materials, Godi Energy and Ola Electric among are planning to set up their own plant.
This means with the production of lithium-ion cells starting in India, there will also be huge waste, which will act as an additional supply source for Attero Recycling. “There is no Indian company into cell manufacturing, but we are in talks with all the Indian players,” reiterated Gupta.
Then there is the price of lithium, which has not come down as per expectations. Gupta stated if one looks at the price of lithium, the price of lithium has increased more than 10 times and in the last few months it has come down by 10 percent. “There is no comparison. It’s more like 1,000 percent increase and a 10 percent decrease.”
Attero Recycling at present has the ability to recover 99 percent of the materials, and even the remaining one percent is recovered over a period.
“In the next three years we aim to meet at least 10 percent of the world’s cobalt, lithium and graphite demand by our recycling output. We have made a significant impact from a sustainability perspective, because mining is an extremely hazardous activity globally. From a carbon footprint reduction or carbon neutrality perspective, the graphite we produce at Attero, has a 20 times lower carbon footprint, compared to the graphite that’s coming out of China,” concluded Gupta.
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