US battery-materials company Ascend Elements is teaming up with South Korean firms SK Ecoplant and its subsidiary TES to construct a cutting-edge battery recycling plant in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The ambitious project, with a budget of $65 million, is poised to play a pivotal role in the sustainable future of electric vehicle (EV) battery production.
Scheduled to commence construction in November and anticipated for completion by January 2025, the recycling plant will possess the remarkable capacity to process up to 12,000 tons of black mass extracted from used EV batteries, a valuable resource originating from battery factories. Ascend Elements, a key player in the battery materials industry, will utilize these recycled materials to bolster its battery production efforts.
The Hopkinsville region is quickly emerging as a hub for advanced battery technologies. Ascend Elements, in addition to its recycling initiative, is also in the process of constructing a battery materials facility, aptly named Apex 1, within the same area. According to the latest announcement, this facility is slated to become operational next year and is projected to produce cathode material and precursors for an impressive 750,000 electric vehicle batteries annually, a threefold increase compared to the company's 2022 estimates.
The ownership structure of the new battery recycling plant reflects the collaborative spirit of the venture, with SK Ecoplant, a subsidiary of the renowned South Korean conglomerate SK Group, holding a majority stake of 64 percent. Ascend Elements will possess a significant 25 percent share, while TES will account for the remaining eleven percent.
Mike O'Kronley, CEO of Ascend Elements, emphasized the significance of this venture in the context of the burgeoning EV industry, stating, “This is just the beginning of an entirely new industry in the United States. For every new EV battery gigafactory that is built, we will need to build a new battery recycling facility to process manufacturing scrap and end-of-life batteries. This is a capital-intensive endeavor, so joint ventures between strategically aligned partners is an ideal way to fund new infrastructure projects.”
Notably, in March 2023, Ascend Elements marked a significant milestone by commissioning its first commercial-scale lithium-ion battery recycling plant in the US state of Georgia, named ‘Base 1.' Regarded as North America's largest recycling plant for electric vehicle batteries, ‘Base 1′ has the capacity to process up to 30,000 tonnes of batteries annually, equivalent to approximately 70,000 e-vehicle batteries, further solidifying Ascend Elements' commitment to sustainable battery recycling and production.