February 2, 2023: The CEO of Gravita India has revealed the company is in talks with potential tech partners to build a pilot lithium recycling facility at the firm’s Mundra lead recycling plant in Gujarat.
Yogesh Malhotra told a third-quarter earnings call on January 24 that India needed “consolidated, complete technology” for sustainable lithium recycling and discussions are underway with potential partners from Europe, Japan and Israel.
However, he stressed the move would be complementary to Gravita’s existing lead recycling operations — of which additional capacity is set to come online shortly.
“We are not in a hurry. We first want to have a good technology partner, so that will probably take some time — maybe in the latter half of next year or a year later.
“Nobody is recycling lithium ion batteries in India as they should be recycled, some are partially doing so but only producing black mass.”
Malhotra said Gravita’s expertise with battery collection systems would give it an advantage in future lithium recycling operations, in addition to the fact it would be largely dealing with OEMs that it has relations with today.
He expects it will take five to seven years from now for battery scrap from the booming EVs and e-scooters sectors to start entering the Indian market.
On lead and the future availability of raw material supply, Malhotra forecast no shortages “even if all the stakeholders currently in this business increase their capacities”.
He cited strong relationships with OEMs and said Gravita was in pole position because of its pan-India presence.
“You need to have plants and operations in multiple locations if you want to enjoy benefits in terms of reduced logistics cost and service to the customer,” he said.
While there will be new market competitors for lead recycling, Malhotra said the company’s business model ensured it would remain a key player.
In a veiled criticism toward potential new lead recycling enterprises in the region he added: “You cannot manage the entire Indian subcontinent by putting up just a single plant.”
Meanwhile, he said the company was awaiting licences from regulatory authorities to start up additional lead production capacity at Mundra.
Gravita announced the start of the first phase of battery recycling operations at Mundra, which had an initial capacity of 19,500 tonnes a year, in December 2021.
Total capacity at Mundra will rise to around 60,000 tonnes per annum as new capacity comes online.
Asked by one analyst if he expected to see a fall in demand for recycled lead from the auto industry, because of moves to use smaller lead batteries for essential functions in EVs, Malhotra said it would take some time to see any reduction in demand.
However, demand would continue to be strong in Gravita’s key areas of operation in Africa, India and developing countries.