Innovating Sustainable Energy Transition: An Interview with Rajat Verma, Founder & CEO of LOHUM

In an exclusive interview with Climate Samurai Rajat shares about LOHUM’s Vision for a Greener Future, Circular Economy, India’s Role in Global Battery Recycling and more. Here is the excerpt:-

1. Can you provide an overview of LOHUM’s current status and any expansion plans on the horizon?

LOHUM is India’s largest producer of sustainable energy transition and battery raw materials, and the only integrated battery recycling, repurposing, and material refining company. The annual capacity of LOHUM’s central recycling hub, the ‘Reclaim’ facility is 10,000 Metric Tonnes of batteries, equivalent to batteries needed to power 50,000 EV sedans every year.

LOHUM as of mid-2023 is a team of around 600 people undertaking the complete end-to-end lifecycle management of LIBs, investing significantly in R&D to further maximize the value of energy transition ecosystem assets. The company’s R&D team is 60-people-strong as of today, and we’re steadily recruiting to maintain a stable 10% of total workforce in R&D. LOHUM is slated to save 4 million tons of CO2e, equal to the CO2e of 15 million Flights between Delhi and Mumbai by 2026.

In 2023, LOHUM partnered extensively with local and global EV ecosystem, including MG Motor India, MG Nepal, Mercedes Benz Energy, Stellantis India & Asia, Ather, ACKO, Log9 Materials, Vecmocon, Altigreen, Tata Motors Nepal, IIT Kanpur,

LOHUM is currently expanding across the US and Europe. Our customers and partners are all across the globe in the US, EU, Middle East, East Asia, Africa, and South-East Asia.

2. The energy transition is a critical global issue. Could you explain LOHUM’s role in the energy transition materials sector and its impact on the bigger picture?

LOHUM’s activities are accelerating the global clean energy transition by building a sustainable supply of secondary recycled transition materials to sustain the EV industry & auxiliary sectors, decelerating the demand for primary raw materials.

Pioneering solutions that turn EV battery waste into virtually infinite value, LOHUM is constantly innovating and rapidly pacing toward a future that enables maximum utilization of its existing resources, and that takes accountability for waste generation. The global ecosystem is placing an increased emphasis on circularity, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is the key concept behind global legislative efforts for clean energy. LOHUM is an end-to-end EPR partner for energy transition ecosystem stakeholders, and enables them to implement their materials circularity and carbon reduction goals.

3. What does ‘materials transition’ mean, and why is it essential for achieving a net-zero future?

The clean energy transition to Net Zero is in effect a materials transition, away from fossil fuels and the materials that sustain them, toward renewable energy and the materials that clean energy infrastructure is built on. This encompasses not only battery raw materials, but all rare-earth, platinum group, and critical materials, as emphasized in the recent “Critical Materials for India” report published by the Ministry of Mines in June 2023.

Energy transition materials are not ‘consumed’ like oil. A battery that serves in the ecosystem, an EV battery for instance, does not produce emissions, nor loses its composite materials to combustion. Thus, the transition materials are key to a Net Zero future, as they enable the switch to Carbon-neutral or Carbon-negative ways of generating and consuming energy.

4. The metals and mining sector is crucial in enabling the energy transition. How does LOHUM address the raw materials challenge?

The metals and mining sectors are the source of all primary materials, playing the role of the faucet of the clean energy ecosystem. As a highly capital-intensive stage of the energy transition, the metals and mining sector is slow to implement significant shifts and faces the challenge of catching up to demand to prevent material shortfalls. According to various global experts, the supply of energy transition materials needs to scale up by many times the current demand, to ensure a seamless and stable ecosystem immune to supply shocks.

This is especially critical, as key technology and innovation prerequisites of the transition are now in place, and the ecosystem is slated to grow exponentially within this decade. Unless supply scales up significantly, we will experience material shortfalls.

A consistent supply of clean transition materials is critical to not just batteries and e-Mobility, but also to renewables infrastructure and R&D in clean technologies. LOHUM addresses the raw material challenge by building a parallel supply chain of secondary materials to insulate the ecosystem against supply shocks, recirculating assets in a closed-loop ecosystem powered by energy transition material recycling and reuse.

Once the transition materials enter the closed-loop secondary materials ecosystem, they can virtually be infinitely recirculated within the ecosystem, thanks to the high recovery rates of NEETM™.

5. India is seeking to attract global investments in battery recycling. How do you see the potential for India in this regard?

According to reports published on Statista, the global lithium-ion battery recycling market is projected to reach USD 35 billion by 2031 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 32% . The market size was worth about USD 1.3 billion in 2019 .

According to the Economic Survey 2023, India’s domestic electric vehicle market is expected to see a 49% CAGR between 2022 and 2030, with 10 million annual sales by 2030 . In June 2023 alone, over 102,014 electric vehicles were sold in India, according to EV Reporter

India has accelerated this growth via the Battery Waste Management Rules (BWMR 2022) and PLI schemes for Advanced Cell Chemistry (ACC). However, the government can further close the gaps by rolling out more subsidy schemes like the Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS), that provide a CapEx subsidy to recyclers of e-waste, along with the PLI schemes currently devised.

Driven by talent, innovators, and regulations across the energy transition spectrum, India is in the position to become a global hub for battery recycling and sustainable secondary raw materials, attracting global investment and collaboration.

6. Battery repurposing and recycling are emphasized for India’s green goals. Could you elaborate on the significance of these practices?

Battery repurposing extends the life of batteries, maximizing their value and utility before they are lost forever in the deconstructive process of battery recycling. Thus, we at LOHUM recommend battery repurposing as the ideal entryway into the secondary materials ecosystem.

Thus, cells from used batteries, particularly from end-of-first-life EV batteries, are ideal for repurposing or reuse in a diverse range of second-life battery applications. Typically, the Second Life battery is used in applications that are less intense than EVs, making them ideal for stationary energy storage.

7. In your opinion, what are the key strategies to accelerate India’s journey towards a sustainable energy transition?

India can induce more incentives across the value chain, especially for battery recycling, set up standards in collaboration with international organizations, build a skilled green workforce, further invest in R&D, formalize used battery collection, and implement eco-design mandates. Additionally, India needs a robust battery asset pricing and commodity trading ecosystem, and to enable that, LOHUM hosts the DETX™ platform, to insulate stakeholders against price fluctuations and deliver future-proof battery buyback and battery raw material prices underwritten by LOHUM, mitigating supply shocks. 

Overall, India can further drive the responsible disposal of hazardous materials, collaboration with global initiatives, and boost cross industry collaboration to achieve industry-wide circularity.

8. Could you explain LOHUM’s NEETM™ Lithium-ion battery material recycling and extraction technology and its impact on waste reduction?

LOHUM’s NEETM™ is the company’s flagship technology, a multi-stage hydrometallurgical energy transition material recycling and extraction process that regenerates 95% of all battery raw materials from used batteries, with purity rates averaging on 99.5%. The hydrometallurgical processes, combined with mechanical separation technologies, are significantly more CO2e and water efficient than pyrometallurgical processes, and provides higher yields for a significantly wider variety of energy transition raw materials. The technology is chemistry-agnostic, meaning that NEETM™ can recycle batteries of every cell chemistry.

The technology is thus an effective waste-to-value conversion pipeline, with vital implications for circularity, CO2e reduction, easing raw material demand, and building a parallel supply chain of secondary materials to enable progressively reduced dependance on mining and raw material imports.

9. What are the future plans and goals for LOHUM in terms of carbon emissions reduction and sustainability?

LOHUM is continually innovating, investing 5% of annual revenue into R&D to further improve efficiencies of NEETM™. The company is also augmenting the accuracy of the DETX™ platform through both R&D and various technology partnerships, and is continually driving optimal battery reuse outcomes via research in battery testing and Residual Value estimation.

Additionally, we plan to develop sustainable low carbon extraction technologies in the areas of Platinum, Palladium, Rhodium, Neodymium and other precious rare earth & critical metals to enable LOHUM and India to be at the forefront of global energy transition materials ecosystems.