Atlas Materials, a groundbreaking start-up focusing on revolutionary nickel technology for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, has successfully secured $27 million in funding, propelling it closer to the realisation of its ambitious vision. This cutting-edge processing technology stands out for its utilisation of hydrochloric acid and caustic soda to extract nickel ore, demonstrating a commitment to sustainability without requiring high pressure, high temperatures, or generating harmful waste byproducts.
In a major announcement on Thursday, the U.S.-based company revealed its plans to construct a pilot plant in North America, marking a significant step forward in the development of this game-changing nickel processing method. The breakthrough innovation lies in Atlas’s ability to transform low-grade nickel, traditionally earmarked for stainless steel production, into a clean, environmentally friendly form suitable for EV batteries with minimal emissions and zero waste.
Atlas Materials is poised to initiate production at a pilot plant by 2027, with potential sites located in either Canada or the United States. The target is an impressive 1,800 metric tons of annual nickel output. CEO Jeremy Ley, in an interview with Reuters, emphasised the company’s unique approach to processing saprolite nickel ores, constituting approximately one-third of global nickel resources. This involves converting these ores into mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) for batteries, marking a significant milestone as the first North American production of MHP.
Ley highlighted the company’s discussions with major mining firms for potential collaboration and expressed their intent to source ore from New Caledonia. The innovative processing technology, employing hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, distinguishes itself by operating at normal pressures and temperatures, eschewing the creation of waste products. Notably, the ore processing into MHP yields valuable byproducts – magnesium hydroxide and a material suitable as a substitute for Portland cement in construction. Both byproducts hold market value, enabling Atlas to capitalise on all elements of the ore without contributing to large tailing ponds.
Crucially, the technology boasts nearly zero carbon dioxide emissions, setting it apart from alternative processing methods like high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) adopted in certain Indonesian plants. These HPAL facilities, while producing MHP for batteries, generate toxic waste, prompting environmental concerns. In contrast, Atlas Materials aligns with global efforts for environmental sustainability, a sentiment underscored by Indonesia’s president, who pledged an environmental clean-up in March, recognizing the ecological impact of nickel processing.
In a testament to the widespread enthusiasm for Atlas’s groundbreaking technology, investors in the Series A Funding round included prominent names such as the Grantham Environmental Trust and Voyager Ventures. The Series A Funding, totaling $33 million, will be instrumental in advancing engineering and design work for the pilot plant. However, additional funding will be sought to realise the construction of this pivotal facility.
In conclusion, Atlas Materials stands at the forefront of innovation in nickel processing for EV batteries, garnering significant support and funding. With its eco-friendly technology and strategic plans for production, the company is poised to make a lasting impact on the electric vehicle industry and contribute to a more sustainable future.