Battery recycling is essential for India’s critical minerals security

India needs benchmarked practice of collection, segregation, testing for second-use potential, disassembly & recycling to make most of spent EV batteries

By Mrinal Tripathi
Published: Thursday 08 June 2023
Photo: iStock

The United States Inflation Reduction Act, 2022 allows recycled battery materials (for example, lithium, cobalt and nickel) to qualify for significant tax credits available through the domestic materials clause, even if those materials were not originally mined in the US or in countries with which the US has free-trade agreements. 

The European Union has also instituted its end-of-life vehicles directive that mandates automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to take back vehicle owners’ end-of-life batteries. The EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ package has further promoted OEM interest in recycling by requiring the publication of battery carbon footprints, as well as by setting collection and recycling targets, including minimum recycled content requirements, for newly built batteries. 

In the US, regulatory initiatives in California (Lithium-ion Car Battery Recycling Advisory Group) and Texas (EV Battery Reuse and Recycling Advisory Group) have recently provided recommendations that are expected to influence regulatory measures further towards battery recycling.

These incentives and regulations are not born out of an altruistic desire to achieve sustainability targets alone. They are coming up in the shrewdest economies of the world because they make perfect financial sense.

The electric vehicle (EV) market in India grew from less than 1 per cent in 2020-21 to almost 4.7 per cent of new vehicle registrations in calendar year 2022, pushed by multiple bold moves by the Government of India. Considering the pace at which the EV market is growing, it will not be long before large volumes of spent batteries will become a real issue to be dealt with.

The silver lining is that spent batteries need not be treated as a menace. They are a treasure of opportunities, if managed appropriately. The cumulative recyclable material from spent EV batteries will be around 245,554 tonnes in 2037, according to a study by New Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment. 

Clearly, all of that tonnage offers the potential to support the country’s battery supply chain and contribute to energy security benefits, if it becomes feedstock for new batteries. 

India imports all of its EV battery cells currently. Considering the potential offered by recycling in generating fresh material for new batteries, India could leverage that to address supply chain risks stemming from the diversity and, sometimes, political instability of the geographies battery raw materials are sourced from.

LOHUM Cleantech, a startup founded in 2018, is India’s largest producer of sustainable energy transition materials, and the only integrated battery material recycling, reuse and low-carbon refining company in the world. This startup has recently launched a joint corporate social responsibility initiative with Morris Garages (MG) to reuse end-of-first-life MG electric sports utility vehicle batteries to build sustainable second-life Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) for a wide variety of clean energy applications in cities and villages. 

LOHUM’s proprietary repurposing technology is used to maximise the potential of cells before recycling, utilising healthy cells with a substantial Remaining Useful Life (RUL) to build sustainable second-life BESS for a wide variety of clean energy applications. 

Their BESS solutions can reliably provide uninterrupted power backup for emergency services, schools, dispensaries, farming and irrigation with zero emissions, and can play a key role in reducing power theft.

Even within India, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released the Battery Waste Management Rules, 2022, which is a step ahead over its predecessor, the 2001 rules that was focused on lead acid batteries. 

However, for India to make an entry as a serious player in the battery materials market, it is important to create a roadmap that includes a robust set of Battery Waste Management Rules, benchmarked practice of collection, segregation, testing for second-use potential, disassembly and recycling. 

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