Leading Chinese battery firm CATL announced on January 15 that its subsidiary, Brunp, plans to invest 23.8 billion yuan ($3.52 billion) in Foshan, Guangdong Province to build an integrated new material industry production base. The project will involve the recovery of 500,000 tons of waste battery materials, the production of ternary and lithium iron phosphate cathode materials and negative electrode recycled graphite.
CATL said that the battery market is about to usher in large-scale decommissioning, and the recycling, disposal and utilization of old batteries will be one of the important sources of raw materials. This investment intends to promote the development of lithium battery materials and the recycling business to ensure supply of raw materials.
Brunp was established in 2005, and its main business is R&D and production of lithium battery materials, as well as comprehensive recovery of lithium batteries. CATL holds 64.8% of its shares.
Last year, the prices of lithium carbonate and lithium hexafluorophosphate soared, causing disruption across the industrial chain. In the first quarter of last year, CATL experienced a rare performance decline, with a single-quarter net profit of 1.49 billion yuan, down 23% year-on-year.
“The problem with upstream materials is only short-term. With the development of the battery recycling industry, it is estimated that by 2035, the recycled materials of retired batteries will meet most market demands. At present, the recovery rate of nickel and cobalt of lithium batteries is 99%, and the recovery rate of lithium is over 90%,” said Robin Zeng, the chairman of CATL, at the World EV&ES Battery Conference held in July last year.
According to data from the China Automotive Technology and Research Center, accumulated retired batteries in China exceeded 320,000 tons in 2021, and are expected to increase to 780,000 tons in 2025. Tian Yulong, the spokesman for China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said this month that the government would speed up the formulation of management measures for battery recycling.
CATL mainly ensures material supply by means of shareholding, joint venture and signing supply agreements. It holds shares in Dynanonic, Hunan Yuneng, and Shangtai Technology, and has signed supply agreements with Ronbay Technology and CNGR.
CATL has invested in a number of companies including North American Lithium, Pilbara Minerals, Neo Lithium and Manono to acquire lithium resources in America, Africa and Australia.
This month, CATL acquired Sinuowei, which is licensed to build a mine in Sichuan to tap into reserves of 24.9 million tons of lithium ore. Subsequently, CATL joined hands with molybdenum producer CMOC Group to invest 6.7 billion yuan in the development of lithium resources in Bolivia.
According to statistics from the China Automotive Power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance, CATL ranked first in terms of loading capacity last year, with a total capacity exceeding 142 GWh and a market share of 48.2%, down 3.9% points year-on-year. The firm occupied more than half of the domestic market for three months last year, and its market share of 50.6% in November was the highest of 2022.