SET-listed Energy Absolute (EA) aims to be the first country in Asean to operate a battery business by co-launching a new study on lithium-ion battery recycling for electric vehicles (EVs) with Chulalongkorn University engineers.
EA chief executive Somphote Ahunai said the study, which should take three years, will give his company in-depth technological know-how before deciding how to expand battery manufacturing, which is operated by subsidiary Amita Technology Thailand.
Amita expects to start producing one gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries at a 6-billion-baht facility in Chachoengsao early next year.
Capacity of 50 gigawatts-hours is expected in the next phase.
The company was set up after EA partnered with a key Taiwanese battery producer, Amita Technologies, in 2017.
Mr Somphote said he cannot estimate the budget to build a recycling facility because costs depend on many factors, ranging from different battery designs to techniques to separate used batteries.
"Separating them is usually more difficult than making new ones," said Sutha Khaodhiar, chief of Chulalongkorn University's Centre of Excellence on Hazardous Substance Management, which yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with EA on the 20-billion-baht joint study.
The centre's work, financed by the Energy Regulatory Commission, is aimed to design equipment to extract lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel from used batteries as well as develop a prototype for the battery discharge process to make sure there is no electricity left in old batteries, ensuring safety during recycling.
"We have to start thinking about battery recycling to deal with discarded batteries in the future," Mr Somphote said.
Batteries for EVs can be used for 5-10 years.
"Technological know-how will allow us to scale up our business," he said.
EA stresses the need to adopt a circular economy concept that includes battery manufacturing and recycling as the number of EVs continue to increase over the past few years.
Newly registered battery electric vehicles, which run purely on electricity, rose from 325 units in 2018 to 1,572 in 2019 and 3,076 in 2020, according to the Land Transport Department.
Recycling used batteries will not only help reduce hazardous garbage, but in terms of business, EA can also save costs and better compete with rivals, said Mr Somphote.
"Consumers should have more confidence in our products after this study. Buyers are increasingly concerned about environmental issues," he said.