Sourcing Raw Materials Is A Big Challenge In Li-ion Battery Space: Founder Lohum
Recognised as 'The Most Innovative Company of the year 2022' by The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Lohum is a producer of sustainable Li-ion battery raw materials
Lohum is a producer of sustainable Li-ion battery raw materials through recycling, repurposing, and low-carbon refining, and the only integrated battery recycling and reuse company in the world. Below is an excerpt from BW Businessworld’s interaction with Rajat Verma, Founder and CEO of Lohum.
How has the brand evolved and grown in the last four years?
Over the last four years, we have created the technology and infrastructure to recycle and refine 2 GWh and repurpose 300 MWh of battery capacity per annum. That equals enough battery materials to potentially power over 50,000 EVs every year. We export a large share of our products. Today, our customers and partners are all across the globe in the US, EU, Middle East, East Asia, and South-East Asia.
What problems is Lohum solving as a brand/company for the ecosystem?
Lohum directly surmounts key industry-wide challenges:
One, there is material supply chain dominance by only a few select countries, which, in turn, control the prices of critical battery metals, and make importing materials for large-scale domestic battery manufacturing unsustainable.
Two, the carbon footprint of mining and refining raw materials that power EV batteries have the potential to undermine climate action.
And three, millions of un-recycled batteries that end up in the waste stream after the end of their life pose a severe environmental hazard.
Lohum surmounts all three obstacles by producing sustainable battery raw materials through recycling, repurposing, and low-carbon refining. The battery-critical materials we recover including black mass, cathode precursors, and reusable cells, end up back into the supply chain, in a circular economy.
What is your take on the zero-carbon footprint in the battery manufacturing space in India?
Lohum's technology delivers 95 per cent material yield, prevents up to 90 per cent CO2e, and consumes 500x less water than mining per ton. We are on our way to preventing over 4 Million Tons of CO2e by 2026. The Government of India introduced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation to battery manufacturers via the Battery Waste Management Rules (BWMR), a leap towards sustainable EVs and Li-ion batteries.
Where do you see the market going five years down the line?
Consumer electronics, a market with a 20000–25000 tonne volume, are currently driving the recycling business. The EV and recycling sector, however, has just recently begun. This market was a 50 Gwh market in 2015, but it is now an 800 GWh market. Within the next three to four years, it is anticipated to grow to a 2500 GWh market.
The primary cell market has increased 50 times. The recycling market is anticipated to increase at a similar rate between 2020 and 2030. The battery recycling industry warrants global regulations, and we are already seeing indicators of this trend in battery passports, EPR legislations, and circular economy regulations. Overall, we expect a steady and firm push towards battery recycling in the future, guided by various governmental frameworks across the world. We can predict with certainty that the battery recycling industry is set to upscale significantly within the decade, and drastically increase in circularity.
How much market share have you been able to capture in the last few years? Highlight some of the ongoing challenges in the space.
Lohum currently constitutes about 60-70 per cent of the total secondary battery recycling and manufacturing market for EV LiBs in India. One of the predominant ongoing challenges the industry is facing is upscaling in tandem with demand. The foremost challenge is a lack of regulatory clarity. Battery collection networks need to be improved. We need to have clear regulations around the safe transport of batteries, and upscale the capacities of battery logistics companies. Moreover, an effective implementation of regulations is also required.
What were the initial challenges that you faced in the manufacturing space?
The biggest challenge was innovating the technologies required and securing raw materials. Solutions that existed before Lohum were significantly less cost-efficient, were smaller scale, had lower yield, and did not have integrated low-carbon recycling, reuse, and logistics under one roof. As a result, we faced little to no challenge in successfully establishing sustainable battery raw material manufacturing.
Tell us about your revenues in the last couple of years? How has your year-on-year growth been?
Our revenue growth has been significant as we have seen a YoY growth of 3x. This year itself we will be closing in on Rs 3000 million in annual revenue (FY 2023). We hope to continue this rate of growth for this year and for subsequent years. The immediate target is to set up upstream capacities in the US in 6-9 months and slowly start expanding to Europe.
What Interesting partnerships the brand has done in the last few months?
We have partnered up with Glencore (one of the largest entities in the mining and metal space) and have consolidated a 5 year contract for supplying 10,000 tonnes of battery raw materials to them including compounds of cobalt, lithium, and nickel. Furthermore, we recently signed a multi-year agreement with Mercedes-Benz Energy to secure high volumes of second-use battery modules. We’ve successfully utilized Mercedes-Benz EV batteries to create sustainable Energy Storage Solutions and EV charging stations.
Talking about the company’s future plans, Verma said that the company is looking forward to expand to the US and increase its upstream capacity. The model we will follow is the hub and spoke model where India is our hub with the US being the spoke, Verma added.
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