Venture funding for battery recycling startups has been taking off recently, and the latest to see an IRA-powered upside is Ascend Elements, which just announced a massive $542 million in Series D funding on top of $480 million in an earlier DOE grant. .
The eight-year-old company recycles lithium batteries into black mass and produces cathode active materials (CAM) and precursor cathode active materials (PCAM). It’s deploying those millions of dollars in recent funding into a manufacturing facility in Kentucky, where it aims to refine the black mass into sustainable, battery-ready materials.
BlackRock-linked Decarbonization Partners led Ascend Elements’ D round. Some other big names also joined in, including funds managed by Singapore and Qatar, as well as climate-tech investor Fifth Wall. Although BlackRock bills itself as an environmentally conscious investor, the company still plows huge amounts of cash into the fossil fuel industry.
“Battery Recycling [into black mass]“Quite frankly, it’s on the simpler side,” Ascend Elements CEO Mike O’Cronley said in a call with TechCrunch on Monday. “So, there are a lot of companies that are jumping into battery recycling. It’s challenging to make really high-value, battery-grade materials on the output side.”
Ascend Elements tells TechCrunch it already does this from pilot facilities in Massachusetts and Michigan. The company aims to produce much more battery-ready material (20 kilotons of pCAM per year) at its Kentucky plant after beginning operations there in late 2024. Current customers of Ascend Elements include Honda and SK Battery America.
Especially in the US, VCs are handing over a whole mess of money to companies that ultimately play a role in converting spent batteries into new batteries. Other deals this year, in addition to Ascend Elements’ $542 million, include: Redwood Materials’ $1 billion D round, Nth Cycle’s targeted $50 million Series B and Green Li-ion’s $20.5 million “pre-Series B.” That’s on top of $192 million. A Department of Energy effort to support battery recycling technology in the US, with the goal of limiting America’s reliance on batteries produced in China.
The recent influx of deals calls to mind the climate-tech funding frenzy of 2021, but global VC funding for battery-recycling firms is still a far cry from its peak of a few years ago, according to PitchBook data. In the third quarter of 2021, PitchBook tracked $2.5 billion in funding across nine deals. In the same quarter this year (with a few weeks left), the data firm recorded $1.5 billion in funding across seven deals.