A pioneering Tavistock-based company is doing its bit to meet green targets with innovative electric vehicle recycling technology, which will be fully operational next year.

The project has been made possible by Devon County Council's Green Innovation Fund.

Tavistock-based Altilium Metals opened its EV battery technology centre in 2022 and is now the only company in the UK recovering critical battery minerals from waste EV batteries.

Through its technology focused subsidiary Altilitech, it was one of seven ground-breaking projects in the county to receive a share of Green Innovation Funding, which invested more than £750,000 to drive green growth in Devon’s economy.

Since then, the company has gone on to secure further investment from the UK Government’s Automotive Transformation Fund, and its technology is now attracting the attention of major international groups and car manufacturers, with a number of significant deals set to be announced in the coming months.

Altilium Metals’ cutting-edge technology, which has been verified by a two-year study by the University of Plymouth, can recover over 95% of the minerals from electric vehicle battery waste, including lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese.

The ability to recover these metals from recycling existing waste streams reduces the need for primary raw materials, leading to reductions in the carbon footprint of new EVs, while contributing to increased energy security for the UK.

Dr Christian Marston, chief technology officer and co-founder of Altilium Metals, commented: “The support from Devon County Council has been transformational for us as a company. It’s allowed us to move forward much quicker than we would have otherwise, enabling us to scale up our technology from lab to pilot.

“We have a sense of urgency that the technologies need to be developed and the infrastructure built for us to get to net zero. A key part of getting to net zero for the UK is a stable, domestic supply of critical minerals because they don’t exist naturally in the UK at scale.”

With growing global demand for EVs, governments and businesses across the world are racing to secure supplies of these critical minerals. Recycling has already been identified as a key priority under the UK government’s Critical Minerals Strategy, which notes the importance of developing a domestic source of critical minerals in order for the UK to achieve its net zero ambitions.

Minerals recovered in Altilium’s state-of-the-art laboratory are now being analysed at Imperial College London, to demonstrate that batteries produced with recycled materials can match the performance of those produced using virgin raw materials, and the company is planning to scale up its technology significantly in the coming months.

Later this year, it aims to be recycling one EV battery per day at its technology centre in Tavistock. By early next year, it plans to have its first recycling plant operational in Europe, with the capacity to recycle 24,000 batteries per year. The company has also just completed a feasibility study for the development of the UK’s largest EV battery recycling plant, which will recycle 150,000 batteries per year.

Despite expanding its footprint elsewhere in the UK and Europe, Dr Marston emphasised that Devon is vital to the future of the business:

“We’re committed to Devon,” he said. “We will build our technical and project management functions in this region to support the growth of the company and the at-scale recycling of electric vehicle batteries.

“Devon’s a great place to be an entrepreneur. We have access to world class universities in Exeter and Plymouth. There’s a large workforce in the region and we’re actively recruiting. It’s an excellent quality of life choice for staff with Devon’s beaches and we have access to Dartmoor National Park on our doorstep. This is a great place to be a scientist and develop technologies.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, welcomed the endorsement for the county from Dr Marston.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said:

“We’re really pleased Altilium Metals is committed to Devon. As the company grows it will keep its technology base in Devon which is good news. Devon is a very attractive place for skilled people to come and live and work.

“We’ve been really pleased to be able to help in our small way and help bring this project forward through investment from the County Council’s Green Innovation Fund. This is exactly what this funding was for and we’re proud of that.

“The Green Innovation Fund was designed to kickstart the green economy and without it companies such as Altilitech may have found it much more difficult.”