SK ecoplant and Ascend Elements to Build New Lithium-ion Battery Recycling Facility in Southwest Kentucky

by | Oct 5, 2023 | Blog, Member News

SINGAPORE – September 29, 2023 – U.S.-based Ascend Elements is partnering with South Korea-based SK ecoplant and its e-waste recycling subsidiary, TES, to build a $65 million lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Hopkinsville, Ky.

The 100,000-square-foot EV battery recycling facility will disassemble and shred approximately 24,000 metric tons of used EV batteries and gigafactory scrap per year – or approximately 56,000 EV batteries per year. Construction is scheduled to begin in November 2023, with completion in January 2025.

SK ecoplant will be the majority owner (64%), with Ascend Elements owning 25% and TES owning 11% of the new joint venture. Since 2022, SK ecoplant has invested more than $60 million in Ascend Elements.

Mike O’Kronley, CEO of Ascend Elements, said, “We are honored to deepen our relationship with SK ecoplant on this new, state-of-the-art EV battery recycling facility.”

“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.”

The new facility will create approximately 60 jobs and produce approximately 12,000 metric tons of black mass per year. The black mass is a fine powder that contains the valuable cathode and anode materials inside an electric vehicle battery. The black mass-produced at the new SK ecoplant/Ascend Elements facility will help supply Ascend Elements’ nearby Apex 1 engineered battery materials facility, which is currently under construction in Hopkinsville, Ky.

When operational in 2024, the $1 billion Apex 1 project will be North America’s first sustainable cathode precursor (pCAM) and cathode active material (CAM) manufacturing facility. At full capacity, the massive Apex 1 project will produce enough pCAM for approximately 750,000 new EVs per year.

CAM and pCAM are engineered materials made to precise microstructure specifications for use in electric vehicle batteries. While most of the world’s pCAM and CAM are made in China from primary (mined) metals, U.S.-based Ascend Elements is commercializing an ultra-efficient method to make sustainable pCAM and CAM from black mass.

The patented Hydro-to-Cathode® direct precursor synthesis process eliminates several intermediary steps in the traditional cathode manufacturing process and provides significant economic and carbon-reduction benefits. Several peer-reviewed studies have shown Ascend Elements’ recycled battery materials perform as well as similar materials made from virgin (or mined) sources while reducing carbon emissions by up to 93%.

Ascend Elements recently closed a $542 million funding round and received $480 million of U.S. Department of Energy grant awards to accelerate the construction of the Apex 1 project. Ascend Elements also operates Base 1, one of North America’s largest electric vehicle battery recycling facilities in Covington, Georgia.

About SK ecoplant

SK ecoplant is the environment and energy arm of SK Group and is leading the group’s future ESG business as a global environmental and energy company. By integrating AI and digital transformation into its entire value chain of the environmental business, SK ecoplant is upgrading its business and accelerating the expansion of its operation to the global market from its global operation base in Southeast Asia.

It has grown rapidly in the waste battery recycling sector and renewable energy sectors, including hydrogen, fuel cells, offshore wind power and photovoltaic power. It is also committed to ESG-oriented management for sustainable growth, leading the efforts to solve global environmental and energy issues and achieve a circular economy for zero waste and net zero.

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