Thea Soule, Chief Commercial Officer at Ecobat, a world leader in battery recycling, provides Auto Recycling World with her thoughts on why EV battery recycling will thrive in the US this year.
As a result of the rising demand for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, coupled with the global supply chain disruptions in the wake of COVID-19 and increases in domestic gas prices, the need for domestic recycling and reuse of batteries could not be more pertinent. 2022 will be the year where the EV battery recycling market thrives in the U.S, facilitating a transformative decade of EV adoption.
As the market transitions from standard combustion engine vehicles to EVs, battery recyclers can scale up for a smooth transition. With monumental, bipartisan investments in infrastructure, including an additional 500,000 project charging stations, the U.S market for EVs is rapidly accelerating. These investments come on the heels of splashy IPOs from EV OEMs like Rivian joining the market, as well as the big player automakers (OEMs) adding several new fully electric models to the lineups. GM, like many OEMs, is committing to an all-electric future supplemented with plans to launch 30 new electric vehicles by 2025. The combination of historic investments in EV infrastructure and the increased sales of EVs is putting the battery recycling market on a trajectory for success; it will also require collaboration and continued support from battery recyclers.
The participation of battery recyclers, including Ecobat along with the Argonne National Laboratory, will help foster innovation that allows for sustainable solutions to the challenges of a growing market.
Ecobat is the world’s biggest battery recycler that meets essential energy storage needs by making the business of batteries safer and more sustainable for a circular energy economy. We understand the need for battery recycling is increasing rapidly, with 100,000 tons of end-of-life batteries expected by 2030. To better understand the trajectory of the U.S. EV battery recycling market, we can look to the slightly more mature European market. Currently, Ecobat is the only company in Europe that offers all stages of Lithium-Ion battery recycling.
There is a higher market share of EVs in several European countries, where they’ve long experienced increased demand for battery recycling. This increased demand has required reliable and efficient recycling operations throughout the region. Existing plants have the infrastructure to recycle vital materials, such as lithium and lead, at scale.
Having readily available, dynamic battery recycling facilities to process the high volume of batteries will localize this vital workstream. Along with the economic boost, centering this work domestically gives battery recyclers the opportunity to work with U.S based OEMs, such as GM and Ford, on building out design standards for end-of-life recycling.
Collaboration on design standards can optimize EV batteries so that battery recyclers can have a standard process for decommissioning the batteries, allowing for efficient and safe battery recycling and reproduction. Increased efficiency has an array of benefits, such as decreased energy consumption and shorter lead times. These benefits will translate to increased accessibility and the potential for cost savings that could be passed on to the consumer.
Over the past two years, consumers have seen unprecedented volatility across supply chains. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased demand for goods, paired with quarantine rules and staffing shortages, significantly increased lead times.
Though the primary challenges facing the industry include material shortages and increased fuel costs, the global supply chain has not recovered. With these disruptions open the door for a more sustainable and local approach. Rather than relying on imports for materials, operations can occur domestically. This will not only decrease the lead time for new EV batteries made from recycled content, but it will bolster the domestic economy and job market. Shifting the focus to the U.S., the private and public sectors alike can build out a flourishing market for commercialized battery recycling domestically.
With the ‘return to normal’ seeming out of reach, the U.S. market for EV battery recycling can reimagine the supply chain landscape. 2022 will be the year where the EV battery recycling market thrives in the U.S, facilitating a transformative decade of EV adoption. Ecobat is leading the industry by relentlessly exploring ways to maximize resources and seizing opportunities with scale and experience, all while considering people and the planet.
About the author
Dorothea “Thea” Soule joined Ecobat in October 2020 as Chief Commercial Officer.
Thea has 15 years of experience in the commodities sector focused on investments and divestments, risk management, capital structure and allocations, process improvement, and supply chain system implementation.
Prior to Ecobat, she led commercial, procurement, and cane origination teams at Biosev, a Louis Dreyfus Company, from 2014 to 2020. Her role focused on driving sales and purchasing strategies, creating arbitrage opportunities, and implementing price risk management practices.
Prior to her work at Biosev, she was head of the commercial desk at Adecoagro, a sugar, ethanol, and electric energy producer in Brazil.
She has a B.S. in Neuroscience from Lafayette College and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.