“A thriving urban mining ecosystem is essential to reduce reliance on imports”, Saurav Goyal, Metastable Materials

Bengaluru-based battery recycling startup Metastable Materials is pioneering a first-of-its-kind, chemical-free technology and system named ‘Integrated Carbonthermal Reduction’ (ICR) for ‘recycling’ of Li-Ion batteries in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner that can extract a wide range of materials from batteries, with more than 90% recovery rate. We caught up with co-founder and COO Saurav Goyal to know more about the firm.

Tell us a little about the start and evolution of Metastable? What are the key milestones on the journey so far, and what future milestones do you look forward to? Founders, Backers, size right now.

Mr. Saurav Goyal, Co-Founder and COO, Metastable Materials

Saurav Goyal, Co-Founder & COO, Metastable Materials

Saurav Goyal: Founded in 2021, Metastable has been dedicated to working on providing environment-friendly solutions by adapting the “waste-as-ore” approach for reducing the Lithium-ion batteries’ overall life-cycle cost and giving impetus to a circular economy.

Metastable raised pre-seed funding from a clutch of angel investors and venture capital firms. The pre-seed round was led by Akshay Singhal and Kartik Hajela, co-founders of Log9 Materials, a battery tech venture.

In October 2022, Metastable Materials Commissioned the World’s First-of-its-Kind Urban Mining Unit with a Yearly Material Processing Capacity of 1500 Tonnes.

Tell us more about the indigenously developed chemical-free process called ‘Integrated Carbonthermal Reduction’ (ICR)and its advantages over other existing processes.

Saurav Goyal: Our indigenously developed process called ‘Integrated Carbothermal Reduction™’ (ICR) is the first of its kind not only in India but across the globe to extract essential and rare metals out of lithium-ion batteries without using any chemicals. Metastable’s chemical-free processing using ‘Integrated Carbothermal Reduction™’ (ICR) is designed to reduce the capital and operational expenditures by more than half when compared with recycling and urban mining industry standards. Moreover, owing to the inspiration that we have taken from the mining industry, we have been able to design our technology to be scalable and sustainable in the long run. This would help in rapid expansion and establishing India as a market leader to pioneer material extractions from end-of-life lithium-ion batteries, especially when our entire bet for the future of EVs is reliant on ensuring the availability of raw materials for lithium-ion batteries and their proper recycling.

How did Metastable Materials is creating the supply chain infrastructure and demand-fulfillment mechanism for rare metals in India.

Saurav Goyal: The additional advantage of ICR is that it produces materials in their standard commodity forms. This ensures flexibility for our buyers to utilize the metals in whatever form they require. With our upcoming recycling unit capable of handling 4-6% of India’s total demand alone in its first 6 months of operations, we are hoping to off-load some of the dependence of India on other countries for the supply of rare metals like cobalt, lithium, and nickel. We are also simultaneously working on establishing cleaner supply chains and alleviating some of the anxiety that is related to the safe transportation of batteries, especially end-of-life ones.

Assuming that Ev batteries for recycling are being imported too, when do you see the Indian market providing most of the batteries to you? What steps can be taken to create a supply chain for EV battery elements?

Saurav Goyal: Due to the large consumer base and India’s push towards faster adoption of electric vehicles, the demand, and supply of lithium-ion batteries are on an exponential rise. This provides a good opportunity for the urban mining industry to proliferate and be equipped with a technology that can handle not only domestic demand but also outsource the services to other key markets like the Americas and Europe. Metastable is working on bringing innovations in the storage and packaging of lithium-ion batteries to mitigate the risk of fire and other safety hazards. In the end, the recycled materials from Metastable can be used to build new cells to support a complete ecosystem of lithium-ion supply chain infrastructure right here in our country.

Would it be fair to say that a thriving urban mining ecosystem for Lithium and other rare metals is actually a key piece of the country’s energy security plans?

Saurav Goyal: A thriving urban mining ecosystem is essential to ensure that India does not rely solely on imports from just a handful of countries to achieve its goal of electrifying the transportation of the country. Since India does not have any significant natural reserves of lithium, cobalt, and nickel of its own, extracting these metals out of waste can be an alternative to support the emerging ecosystem of electric vehicles and stationary storage.

Are your operations run-on renewable energy currently? Do you plan to shift to Re soon to power operations?

Saurav Goyal: Building upon its materials science competency, Metastable’s team of engineers and technicians strive to keep the environment clean through 100% chemical-free treatment of Li-ion batteries, done for the first time in the history of metal extraction out of lithium-ion batteries globally. Their processes are designed to minimize waste and improve efficiency. Notably, the battery treatment methodology used by Metastable Materials also significantly reduces capital expenditure and operational expenditure in comparison to conventional battery recycling practices, along with offering a recovery rate of over 90% for the constituent materials.

Metastable Materials’ proprietary processes are designed to be more efficient than the current industry standards. As a result, the energy requirements to recycle lithium-ion batteries are

significantly lower. That is why, our facility is currently planned to run on a conventional source of energy only, such as electricity.

How do you see the overall battery market by 2030? What could be the relative share of lead-acid, lithium-ion, and other technologies like Solid State, Iron-Air, etc?

Saurav Goyal: As per the report by Niti Aayog on battery recycling, It is estimated that India would see a consolidated investment of US$47,801 million from 2021 to 2030 to cater to the demand for 600 GWh across all the segments of battery energy storage.

Currently, the EVs available in India predominantly use Nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) batteries (NMC 111 and NMC 622), which take up over 65% share, followed by lithium iron phosphate (LFP), NCA, and Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO). However, Suzuki India mainly uses LTO batteries and, considering the overall share in the automobile market, the penetration of these batteries is expected to increase in the future.

SAs predominantly use LFP chemistry batteries as they are known to be long-lasting, safe, and the cheapest of all LIB technologies. LFP chemistry also guarantees a higher cycle life, with some Tier 1 manufacturers offering more than 4,000 cycles. With the advancement of technologies and improving energy densities, it is expected that penetration of NMC, LMO, and NCA will also increase gradually by 2030.

Do you feel government policy has kept pace with industry needs here? What could be missing/done?

Saurav Goyal: With the release of Battery Waste Management Rules, 2022, government cleared much of the ambiguity in the role which needs to be played by each stakeholder and there is a clear outline of the responsibilities of the producers and recyclers. If implemented properly, this can prove to be a pivotal moment in setting up India as a leader in providing world-class metal extraction services.

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