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Ascend Elements Pioneers Sustainable U.S. Cathode Materials for Commercial Li-ion Batteries


In a milestone for the U.S. battery materials industry, Ascend Elements recently shipped decarbonized cathode materials to

In a milestone for the U.S. battery materials industry, Ascend Elements recently shipped decarbonized cathode materials to Freudenberg e-Power Systems, a leading supplier of emissions-neutral energy solutions for heavy-duty applications. This shipment is notable as one of North America’s first deliveries of engineered cathode materials for a specific battery application in a commercial vehicle validation and launch process. Using recycled battery metals for cathode materials can help EV battery manufacturers qualify for U.S. tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

“Battery manufacturers in the United States are starting to use engineered battery materials that are made in America from recycled metals,” said Eric Gratz, Ph.D., CTO and Co-founder of Ascend Elements. “Engineered cathode material is normally made in Asia using material from mined sources. Now we’re making it domestically from recycled EV batteries and production scrap while generating just half the carbon footprint.”

Ascend Elements uses a patented process known as Hydro-to-Cathode® direct precursor synthesis to manufacture NMC pCAM and CAM from used lithium-ion batteries and battery manufacturing scrap. The closed-loop process eliminates up to 15 intermediary steps in the traditional cathode manufacturing process and provides significant economic and carbon-reduction benefits. A recent life cycle assessment conducted by an independent third-party found Ascend Elements’ Hydro-to-Cathode® process produces EV battery cathode material at a 49% reduction in carbon emissions compared to traditional cathode manufacturing processes. By 2030, the company aims to achieve a 90% reduction in carbon footprint for its decarbonized cathode products.

Since cathode material is the single largest contributor to a lithium-ion battery cell’s carbon footprint, Ascend Elements’ low-carbon cathode material will have a dramatic impact on Freudenberg e-Power Systems’ batteries.

The shipment of pCAM material was engineered and manufactured at the Ascend Elements pilot facility in Westborough, Mass. The materials will be sintered and finished as CAM at the Ascend Elements location in Novi, Mich. before shipment to Freudenberg e-Power Systems at the XALT Energy plant in Midland, Mich.

“This is a relatively small shipment in relation to the intended full-scale commercial program, but it’s an important milestone for Ascend Elements and the U.S. battery materials industry,” Gratz said.

Freudenberg e-Power Systems is proving to be a pioneer in the lithium-ion battery industry. Ascend Elements’ engineers worked closely with Freudenberg e-Power Systems for over a year to engineer and manufacture the low-carbon cathode material to particularly high-performance requirements for lifetime, charge time, and safety.

“We’re very proud to be one of the first to use recycled sources for our cathode material that powers buses and trucks across the country. The partnership with Ascend Elements underscores our ambitions not only to lower the carbon footprint for our customers but also in our own supply chain and materials,” said Lisa McKenzie, President and General Manager of Battery Systems at Freudenberg e-Power Systems.

Several peer-reviewed studies have shown Ascend Elements’ recycled battery materials perform as well as similar materials made from virgin (or mined) sources. In fact, Freudenberg tested Ascend Elements’ customized cathode product extensively and found it to have truly exceptional cycle-life results while achieving best-in-class safety.

While this shipment of material was made in Massachusetts and finished in Michigan, Ascend Elements continues building a $1 billion advanced manufacturing campus in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Scheduled to begin operations in early 2025, the 1-million-square-foot Apex 1 facility will eventually produce enough pCAM and CAM for 750,000 EVs per year.

In addition to the CAM deal with Freudenberg, Ascend Elements landed a $1 billion contract to manufacture sustainable pCAM for a major U.S.-based company in June 2023. Commercial-scale shipments of material to the undisclosed customer will begin in Q1 2025.

SOURCE: Ascend Elements

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