Teesside University, in collaboration with the prominent clean technology firm Altilium, is actively contributing to the establishment of the United Kingdom’s inaugural circular economy dedicated to electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
Together, the University and Altilium are spearheading the development of a large-scale battery processing and black mass production plant on Teesside, with the capacity to process over 100,000 EV batteries annually upon completion.
This ambitious £750,000 initiative has received substantial backing, including a grant of nearly £560,000 from Tees Valley Launchpad. This funding source, established by Innovate UK as part of UK Research and Innovation, serves as a collaborative research and development fund.
In the context of battery life conclusion, “black mass” refers to the material generated through the collection, discharge, dismantling, and shredding of batteries. The energy-efficient production of black mass represents the initial stage in the comprehensive battery recycling process.
Significantly, black mass is rich in critical metals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese—essential components in the original battery manufacturing process. Leveraging proprietary recycling technology, Altilium can recover over 95% of these vital battery metals, yielding battery-ready cathode active material (CAM).
The proposed commercial-scale black mass plant is poised to supply raw material to Altilium’s Teesside-based battery recycling and CAM production hub, constituting one of the region’s most substantial green investments.
Collaborating closely with academics from Teesside University’s Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre, Altilium will be actively involved in shaping and implementing the design of the black mass plant, further solidifying the commitment to advancing sustainable practices in battery management and recycling.
Professor Michael Short, Acting Associate Dean (Research and Innovation) in the School of Science, Engineering & Digital Technologies, is the principal investigator on the project. He said:
“As a University which is committed to responding to the climate emergency through the adoption of smart and green technologies we are delighted to be able to support Altilium with our expertise on this project.
Decarbonisation of transportation is a key enabler of the drive to net zero, and the battery recycling plant is destined to have a huge impact on the UK’s rapidly expanding electrical vehicle (EV) and battery production infrastructure. This project will help to establish the Tees Valley as a national hub for sustainable battery technology, and the wider North East as a national hub for sustainable EV manufacturing.”
At present, Altilium stands as the sole UK entity dedicated to the recovery of essential battery metals from black mass. The company’s cutting-edge hydrometallurgical recycling methods contribute to a notable 50% decrease in carbon emissions when juxtaposed with the utilization of virgin materials in battery manufacturing. This environmentally conscious approach also yields a cost reduction of 20%, laying the foundation for more economically viable and widely accessible electric vehicles.
Altilium Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Dr Christian Marston commented:
“We are excited to be working with the experienced team at Teesside University to close the loop on battery recycling and establish a sustainable domestic supply chain for the low carbon battery materials required for the electrification of transport in the UK.
With the growing volume of end-of-life batteries expected over the next decade, it is critical that we develop the infrastructure to ensure safe and efficient processing of this waste in the UK, rather than exporting these valuable resources to be processed overseas.”
Altilium is poised to introduce an exclusive customer offering in the UK through its comprehensive battery circularity model. This unique approach encompasses a zero-carbon EV battery collection, black mass recycling, and chemical refining. At its Teesside CAM production plant, the company will have the capacity to manufacture 30,000 metric tons of battery-ready CAM annually. This substantial output is equivalent to fulfilling 20% of the UK’s requirements by the year 2030.
Beyond meeting the country’s evolving energy needs, Altilium’s initiative aligns seamlessly with the recently unveiled Government battery strategy, launched last month (November). This strategy outlines a roadmap for the UK to establish a globally competitive battery supply chain, fostering economic prosperity and facilitating the transition to a net-zero economy by the year 2030.