A 2023 report from the International Council on Clean Transportation project states that by 2030, there will be 1.2 million batteries reaching end-of-life, 14 million in 2040, and 50 million by 2050. The same report says that “an efficient recycling of end-of-life vehicle batteries… could reduce the combined annual demand in new lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese mining by… 28% in 2050,” making a strong case for effective, safe recycling. What is the use in moving towards batteries and the electrification of the planet if those solutions have a negative impact on the planet as well?
The team at Evolve Renewable Materials Inc. couldn’t agree more. The bright team at Evolve is developing innovative lithium-ion battery recycling and materials refining technologies. Their patented innovations allow EV battery manufacturers to reuse 100% zero-waste, green and locally recycled materials to manufacture new batteries.
At Evolve, they safely stabilize the lithium-ion battery and run the stabilized materials through their separation process. Plastics, metals and graphite are segregated from the recovered battery cathode materials, and then they purify and extract the precursor cathode battery materials.
They also seek to transform mainstream consumer practices as well. “There is a lot of untapped value in discarded batteries. Despite loss of functionality, these batteries retain valuable materials like cobalt, lithium, nickel, aluminum, and iron.” shares Co-founder and CTO Dr. Wesley Tennyson.
The Inspiration for Evolve Renewable Materials Inc.
Batteries are fundamental to carbon neutrality by 2050. Evolve Co-founders and CEO Mike Vogel and CTO Dr. Wesley Tennyson knew they needed to transform battery recycling so that it didn’t create a different kind of waste and cause environmental damage.
Dr. Tennyson explains, “We need to build robust systems that are particularly conscious of the impact on the environment in terms of emissions as well as safety, whilst also being responsive to consumer needs. Consumers need what they need; they’re going to live their lives. We should design our systems to make that okay.”
The current recycling practices weren’t helping. It involved burning the batteries and getting rid of the organics in China. Worst of all, about 20% of the material becomes air pollution.
Dr. Tennyson adds, “So, you have this battery that has been used to power a green process its whole life. Then its life ends, and it goes into a process which is entirely dirty. Mike founded the company with the objective of changing that. Our goal is to electrify America in a sustainable way.”
While the end vision was clear, the pathway to achieving this hasn’t been as straightforward. Dr. Tennyson shares, “Some of our plans to decentralize the recycling process still face hurdles with regulatory challenges relating to the handling and processing of lithium batteries, with each state adopting the overarching federal EPA Act without uniformity. More work still needs to be done by regulators to bring the cost of recycling down, which we are working towards, and believe can be achieved without impacting on safety and environmental standards.”
Dan Loper, Evolve’s Business Development Manager elaborates, “The light bulb moment for us was the government saying, ‘Hey, we’re really going to push the electric vehicle initiative in this country.’ And then all the manufacturers are kind of like, all right, we’re going to be carbon neutral by 2030. Then they are asking, ‘All right, so what will it take to manufacture batteries at that scale? …How do we get those materials in a sustainable way?”
Of course, manufacturers could mine the materials like they have been doing, or a better, more green solution is using what is already out there in the marketplace. Loper adds, “In the United States, plenty of battery material can be repurposed. And that’s the angle, I think, we are all looking at because they kind of laid it out there like, ‘Hey, we’re doing this. So we need people to figure out what the backbone of this is going to be. And what we are now doing at Evolve became logical.”
What makes Evolve Renewable Materials Inc. Different?
It turns out that Evovle’s timing into the market is significant and is working in their favor. Dr Wesley Tennyson quickly chimes in, “we have competitors who started several years before us who’ve had to contend with covid supply chain issues, challenging economic conditions, whilst also adopting traditional recycling processes that we believe are far from sustainable. We recognized early on a huge gap and opportunity to innovate sustainable low emissions recycling solutions. We know how important this is for battery manufacturers to have traceability over recycled materials, and to ensure lifecycle emissions are kept low.”
He explains that their competitors experienced a lot of negative pain points, for example, “What if you have excess leaching liquids that are sitting in vats because you didn’t plan for it? Or, maybe you have been using a hydro shredding system that causes excess lithium to be lost to the water, so you’re not collecting all your lithium and creating another waste-stream that needs to be dealt with.”
The Team That’s Making It Happen
CEO Mike Vogel has been investing in and creating sustainable ventures that give back to society and positively impact our environment. Prior to Evolve, he founded LINICO Corporation, another cleantech lithium-ion battery recycling innovator, in 2021, which he sold to investors. Before Vogel’s entrepreneurial career, he spent 18 years working in the construction and engineering industry on multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects for multinational top-tier contractors in Australia and the Pacific region.
CTO Dr. Tennyson is an engineering physicist who has worked in several areas and did his post-doctoral research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He developed electrode materials to enable solid acid fuel cells. “I solved a problem of electrode corrosion in solid acid fuel cells through innovative nanoparticles design, leading to 60 times improved electrode corrosion resistance.” The rest of the team has significant expertise in design and engineering.
Dr. Tennyson shares that Tennessee is what brought their team together. “Mike was looking for a place to invest, and he, for some reason, was drawn to Tennessee. He and I met, and after I came on board with the company, I told him, ‘I’m not going anywhere because East Tennessee is in the middle of the eastern seaboard. The Knoxville region is generally a really great place to hire people. We have great universities here. You have access to the East Coast; you have rail. Everything we need is here.”
Once they established the location, they brought in as many experts as possible. “Daniel Loper (Business Development Manager) and Tom Plute (EHS Director) came with us from another competitor.” Daniel adds, “We then began building a team locally with people from the university and people from the manufacturing areas of Knoxville. Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a logical place to set up shop because of the rich research history.”
Batteries are here, and vast amounts of end-of-life batteries are in the future. The Evolve Renewable Materials Inc. team, led by CEO Mike Vogel and CTO Dr. Wesley Tennyson, are committed to “sustainably electrify humanity through the creation of economically viable 100% zero-waste and green lithium-ion battery recycling and renewable materials refining technologies.” We are all rooting for that.
To find out more, visit Evolve Renewable Materials Inc.