Ramping up its portfolio of investments in the global lithium-ion battery industry, Oman Investment Authority (OIA) – the integrated sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman – is among a number of strategic international investors that have injected new funding into Ascend Elements, a US-based engineered materials and lithium-ion battery recycling firm.
Massachusetts-based Ascend Elements announced on Wednesday that it has secured $300 million in equity and debt financing, including $200 million in Series C equity investments from an international group of strategic and financial investors, including Muscat-based OIA.
The funding round was led by Fifth Wall Climate and joined by SK ecoplant, the environmental unit of South Korean conglomerate SK Group. Other new investors include Lithium Americas Corporation, GLy Capital Management‘s New Mobility Fund, Mirae Asset Capital & LS and Shinhan GIB. The funding is in addition to two recently awarded grants totalling $480 million from the US Department of Energy.
Part of the funding, Ascend Elements said, will support the construction of its new Apex 1 sustainable Electric Vehicle (EV) battery material plant in the US state of Kentucky. Estimated to cost around $1 billion, this one-of-a-kind facility, it noted, will produce sustainable, engineered battery materials from recycled lithium-ion batteries to equip up to 250,000 electric vehicles per year.
Additionally, the funding will accelerate commercialisation of Ascend Elements’ innovative and proprietary Hydro-to-Cathode direct precursor synthesis process, which establishes a closed-loop, EV battery materials supply chain in North America, the company stated.
OIA’s Director – Private Equity, Ibrahim al Eisri, was quoted as saying: “We are pleased to partner with Ascend Elements to develop and transform the lithium-ion battery recycling industry globally. Our investment in Ascend aligns well with OIA’s strategy of investing in transformative companies in sectors which complement Oman’s Vison 2040 priorities.”
Ascend Elements CEO Mike O’Kronley added: “Our investment partners understand the urgent need to produce sustainable, lithium-ion battery materials. It’s not enough to simply recycle lithium-ion batteries and recover metals for the global commodity markets. Our patented, closed-loop process goes beyond simple battery recycling. Instead, we produce sustainable, high-performance cathode active materials that can go directly back into new EV batteries.”
The company’s existing facility in the US state of Georgia currently processes end-of-life EV batteries – recycled materials from which will ultimately feed Ascend Elements’ new Apex 1 plant in Kentucky. Recycling capacity of the Georgia unit is expected to rise to 30,000 metric tonnes by the end of this year – part of a recycling capacity of over 150,000 metric tonnes that Ascend Elements is targeting globally by 2026.
The goal is to transform these recycled ingredients into high-performance, customised, EV battery cathode active material precursor (pCAM) and cathode active materials (CAM) that meet the requirements of top-tier battery manufacturers, according to the company.
Significantly, it is OIA’s second such EV-related investment so far this month. On October 5, the Authority announced an investment in Group14, another US company manufacturing trailblazing battery materials.
Group14 specialises in manufacturing innovative lithium-silicon battery materials to replace traditional lithium-ion batteries – currently the mainstay of the global EV industry. Group14 has also attracted several leading investors in the battery materials field, including Porsche and SK Materials, among others.