Aqua Metals — New Startup Building Lead-Acid Battery Recycling Plant Near Tesla’s Gigafactory

Earlier this year, it was revealed that a new lead-acid battery recycling startup by the name of Aqua Metals had purchased a 12.5-acre plot of land at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center (in Nevada), fairly close to where Tesla is currently constructing its lithium-ion battery Gigafactory.

Development on that plot of land is now underway, and a recent closing of a loan for $10 million was achieved as well — which will be used to construct the new lead-acid battery recycling plant.

Aqua metals

A couple of things worth noting here — the loan (issued by the Houston-based Green Bank) is backed by a 90% loan guarantee via the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency; the company already held an IPO despite not yet making a profit, and thusly raised $36 million. This new loan of $10 million just adds to these funds.

Forbes provides more:

Aqua Metals has developed a process to recycle lead acid batteries — the kind used to start gas-powered cars — that uses less energy, is less expensive, and is more environmentally-friendly than the standard way to recycle lead acid batteries. Most of the world’s lead acid batteries are recycled by smelting, which is an energy-intensive process that uses extremely high heat to separate out the lead and reuse it.

In contrast, Aqua Metals has developed a chemical process to dissolve the core of the battery in a solvent and pull out the lead. The company says the process uses low temperatures, can be automated, and can be profitable at a small scale. Smelters commonly need to be very large facilities to economically operate.

Construction on the new facility (the AquaRefinery) actually began a few months ago, near the end of August. The company is reportedly aiming to construct a 125,000 square-foot building on the site in the spring. This will be used to begin the recycling efforts. The company claims that, by the end of 2016, it will be pumping out around 80 tons of recycled lead a day.

The CEO of the startup, Stephen Clarke, told Forbes that he thought the new approach to recycling could be as “disruptive to the lead industry as Henry Bessemer’s tech, which enabled the mass production of low-cost steel, was to the steel industry.”

Image Credit: Aqua Metals

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