Local plant that recycles batteries for electric cars gets $375 million loan

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — If you have a smartphone it’s probably powered by a lithium battery.

A local facility at Eastman Business Park recycles them to help build the batteries that power electric cars. Ajay Kochhar runs Li-Cycle. On Monday, News10NBC learned his company is getting a $375 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The money comes from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. Li-Cycle started seven years ago. It takes old lithium batteries, recycles the lithium, cobalt, and nickel and sell that material to make new electric batteries. Without those chemicals, you can’t make the batteries.

Ajay Kochhar, Li-Cycle CEO: We used to work in the lithium space. We saw all this lithium getting wasted and we thought, well that’s crazy. How is that any better than hydro-carbons? So that’s why we’re called Li-Cycle.

The loan is expected to create 270 permanent jobs at the plant and 1,000 construction jobs. Rochester’s Li-Cycle Plant could become one of America’s largest supplies of recycled materials for batteries, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who helped to secure the loan. He visited the plant on Monday and previously visited in September

Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D) New York: With this investment, Li-Cycle is going to become, listen to this, Li-Cycle is going to become the largest supplier of lithium carbonate in all of America.
The batteries are small, but Li-Cycle is building a plant at the Eastman Business Park that fits 50 football fields.

Brean: When the battery goes on my phone or goes in the toy in my son’s electric dinosaur, that battery is going to end up with you and you’re going to recycle it?

Ajay Kochhar, Li-Cycle CEO: Yep, that’s right. So you have to find local collection centers. They’re often at retail stores. Those groups take it, separate the batteries and give it to us.

Only 10% of lithium batteries are recycled. The industry needs that to be 90%. You can recycle yours at the county’s eco-park behind the airport or at stores like Best Buy, Lowes, Target, Sprint and Verizon.

Li-Cycle aims to help the U.S. lead the electric vehicle market, which is booming as countries aim to fight climate change by curbing carbon emissions. Currently, China is the world’s leader in making lithium-ion batteries and electric cars.

Schumer: “The heart of hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles, which will soon dominate our roads, will be made with battery components from right here in Rochester.”

At its peak, the plant’s products could support the needs of 203,000 electric vehicles a year. That’s enough to reduce gasoline use by about 80.6 million gallons per year, according to the EPA.

The recycled lithium-ion could make it easier for companies to assemble electric vehicles in North America, which would allow the car’s buyer to qualify for the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit. Owners can get a $7,500 tax credit on their electric vehicle if it has at least 40% minerals and 50% of battery components processed in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The loan to Li-Cycle is funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, signed in August 2022, which aims to curb inflation by promoting clean energy among other things.

Li-Cycle headquarters are based in Toronto, Canada and has other locations within and outside the U.S.