“Recycling technology is the best option” – Mobility Moments with Peter Cowan, Director of Gigamine
Listen to this article
reading time: 4 protocol
Gigamine is a UK-based startup developing technology to efficiently and effectively recycle used electric vehicle (BEV) batteries. Peter Cowan is Gigamine’s Operations Director. He joined in 2021 to help the company scale.
In this week’s Mobility Moments, Cowan explains the urgent need for lithium-ion battery recycling and provides details on Gigamine’s recently announced partnership with Slovakian company InoBat.
Describe Gigamine’s key services.
One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers is that their batteries use many critical materials – dependent on timid supply chains and limited global inventories. By recycling existing batteries, we hope to alleviate this supply pressure by making the technology truly viable in the transition to a greener economy.
What technologies do you offer to enable the cradle-to-cradle economy?
Manufacturers will be under pressure in the coming years to find a solution to the enormous amount of waste generated by larger investments in these batteries. Gigamine’s recycling facilities will play a pivotal role in the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ circular economy, where BEV battery parts will be processed and refined for reuse, ultimately reducing costs and putting materials back into the economy without a further exploitation of natural resources is required.
Why is there an urgent need to recycle lithium-ion batteries?
Across Europe, many advanced economies have set net-zero targets for the next 10 to 30 years; In all cases, wider use of recycling is required to achieve these goals.
Lithium-ion batteries are a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine and an important step towards a green energy source for consumers. However, like most renewable energy sources, the technology still relies on critical materials to function. Because these are very scarce around the world, the technology is not sustainable unless we find a way to salvage metals like nickel and cobalt from used batteries.
The last few weeks’ calls for European nations to reduce dependence on Russia have highlighted how difficult it is for nations to find an alternative to fossil fuels in the short term. The same applies to the metal market; 51% of the cobalt reserves are located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Even if we found a new cobalt mine today, it could take 20 years or more to develop before production could begin.
The increased demand for renewable energy is only exacerbating this supply problem. However, investing in recycling technology is the best option to make clean energy sources viable in the long term.
How can discarded lithium-ion batteries be used?
BEV batteries at the end of their lifespan are currently “crushed” into a black mass – a powder full of metals and minerals that can be extracted and reused in another battery or something else. The problem right now is that this process is very expensive and inefficient.
You can subject the powder to pyrometallurgical refining, which uses large amounts of heat, or hydrometallurgical refining, which uses solvents to bind and separate the metals.
There is currently no way to recover 100% of the metals injected. Our biggest challenges today are finding a way to automate these processes to reduce costs and finding new ways to maximize efficiency.
Explain your partnership with InoBat.
We announced our partnership with InoBat in April 2022. Gigamine and InoBat’s collaboration will focus on BEV battery recycling – initially lithium-ion batteries and waste materials from the BEV battery manufacturing process. The aim is to be able to handle the entire recycling of EV batteries as new battery technologies develop.
We also work together to make a significant contribution to achieving net zero and other sustainability issues, such as: B. Sourcing and procurement of raw materials, supply chain logistics and efficiency, and recycling and reuse of materials.
InoBat intends to expand its mission with a third Gigafactory in Western Europe and candidate countries are UK and EU – the decision should come later in 2022. This partnership will also be an important part of Gigamine’s expansion as we seek to complement the development of the technology with means of sustainable recycling of battery components across Europe.
How will Gigamine use its seed funding round?
Gigamine will use its funding round in three key areas: 1) to begin construction of its first site later this year. 2) to evaluate the best technologies for recycling. 3) to recruit the best engineering and battery development team in the field (if you are interested in applying email: [email protected]).
What will urban mobility look like by 2030?
With investments in recycling lithium-ion batteries, it will be possible to mass-produce batteries of all shapes and sizes for transportation.
Current schemes such as London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) incentivize those who drive frequently in urban areas – such as taxi drivers – to use hybrid vehicles, creating more investment needs in better technology for small, mobile transport.
However, we can expect that as technology improves, it will be easy to make customized batteries for different types of vehicles. Recycling these batteries ensures component materials remain affordable for developers to enable innovation. It’s conceivable that by 2030, all forms of transportation moving in and out of cities—cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats, ships, motorcycles—will benefit from low-cost battery-powered technology in advanced nations.