$1B EV Battery Plant Gets Key Capital Infusion

Ascend Elements’ project will be the first facility of its kind in North America.

Ascend Elements, a Westborough, Mass.,-based provider of sustainable, closed-loop battery material solutions, has raised an additional $162 million in equity investments. The new financing brings the firm’s 12-month funding to $704 million and accelerates the construction of its $1 billion Kentucky manufacturing facility that will produce sustainable lithium-ion battery cathode materials for electric vehicles.

Major investors in the new funding round included Just Climate, Clearvision Ventures and IRONGREY. In September, Ascend Elements raised $542 million led by investments from Decarbonization Partners, Temasek and Qatar Investment Authority.

Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC acted as sole placement agent for the Series D funding round.

Ascend Elements CEO Mike O’Kronley said in a prepared statement the investments from a diverse group of leading climate investors and industry partners underscore the confidence the market has placed in its business. O’Kronley said the company is accelerating the global transition to zero carbon emissions through its work in recycling lithium-ion batteries and making new, engineered battery materials with lower carbon emissions.

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Aruna Ramsamy, a managing director at Just Climate, said in prepared remarks Ascend Elements’ first pCAM facility in the U.S. has the potential to unlock the supply of critical battery materials to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicles. Ramsamy noted the company’s Hydro-to-Cathode technology provides a sustainable option for production of the battery materials and will champion circularity in an industry poised to scale significantly.

Kentucky plant development

Ramsamy was referring to Ascend Elements’ $1 billion Apex 1 facility being built in Hopkinsville, Ky., which will be North America’s first sustainable cathode precursor, or pCAM, manufacturing facility when it opens in early 2025. When complete, the 1 million-square-foot facility will produce sustainable pCAM and cathode active materials (CAM) for up to 750,000 electric vehicles per year. CAM and pCAM are engineered materials made to precise microstructure specifications for use in EV batteries.

Most of the world’s pCAM and CAM are currently made in China from mined metals. Ascend Elements is commercializing a method to make sustainable pCAM and CAM from black mass, the output of lithium-ion battery recycling facilities. At Apex 1, Ascend Elements will deploy its patented Hydro-to-Cathode direct precursor synthesis technology which will eliminate several steps in the traditional cathode manufacturing process and provide economic and carbon-reduction benefits.

Ascend Elements broke ground on the Apex 1 plant in October 2022. Late last month, the construction team placed the final piece of structural steel on the 315,000-square-foot pCAM leaching building. The pCAM building is one of many large structures under construction at the 140-acre campus. The ceremony at the western Kentucky site included Ascend Elements team members and crews from Turner Construction Co., Kokosing Construction and SSOE Group. Construction of the pCAM operations will continue into 2025.

The project is supported in part by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the U.S. Department of Energy including at least two DOE grants totaling $480 million.

The project is expected to bring hundreds of full-time jobs and billions of dollars in positive economic impact to Kentucky. A recent manufacturing report from Savills stated the current manufacturing revival occurring in the U.S. is being driven by significant public financing including federal allocations from the BIL, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPs and Science Act. Savills stated those allocations supported at least $628 billion in capital investments in manufacturing since the start of 2021.

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