Korean battery recycler to be latest addition to Georgia EV sector

SungEel HiTech subsidiary to open facility to serve burgeoning electric vehicle ecosystem.

A South Korean company that recycles metals and battery components plans to build its first U.S. facility in North Georgia, another addition to the state’s burgeoning electric vehicle sector.

SungEel HiTech Co. will build a $37 million recycling center in Toccoa in Stephens County where it will recycle lithium-ion batteries and battery manufacturing scrap material, according to a news release Thursday from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office. The company plans to hire 104 people for the future recycling center, which is expected to begin operations in early 2024, the release said.

EVs make up a tiny percentage of vehicles on American roads, but automakers and the federal government are investing hundreds of billions of dollars, collectively, to promote electric vehicle manufacturing. President Joe Biden has signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Democrats’ climate and health care bill that includes funding to expand EV manufacturing and supply chain, charging and tax credits to buy the vehicles.

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Georgia has aggressively courted electric vehicle makers and their suppliers to help ensure the state is an EV manufacturing hub.

EV startup Rivian and Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group have each announced plans for multibillion-dollar electric vehicle factories, and the state counts dozens of other suppliers to the automotive industry. A subsidiary of Korean conglomerate SK Innovation also has a sprawling factory where it builds battery packs in Jackson County.

Experts say battery recycling is going to grow in importance as more EVs hit the road. Recycling old batteries to reclaim certain vital minerals is more environmentally friendly than mining.

“Georgia recently announced record-breaking numbers for fiscal year 2022, and companies like SungEel are evidence that the rapidly growing electric mobility ecosystem continues to generate new jobs for hardworking Georgians across the state,” Kemp said in the release.

Kemp noted Korea has been a “key partner” in growing Georgia’s sustainable technology industry — including EV and EV battery plants.

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

SungEel Recycling Park Georgia will recycle end-of-life batteries to reclaim critical metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium. The company claims a 95% recovery rate of the rare earth minerals, which are essential to EV battery production.

“SungEel HiTech’s entry into Georgia is the last piece of the puzzle to build a sustainable ecosystem of Georgia’s electric vehicle supply chain,” said Suk Jae Yim, Representative of SungEel Recycling Park Georgia. “SungEel Recycling Park Georgia will conduct its full responsibility to build a U.S. eco-friendly industrial ecosystem in line with the expectations of the State of Georgia and Stephens County.”

Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson met with SungEel officials in Korea earlier this week. State officials have spent decades cultivating relationships in Korea to attract business to Georgia.

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“Creating the jobs of the future and protecting the opportunities of today means preparing key industries, such as the auto industry, for the next technological revolution,” Wilson said. “We are grateful to our partners in Stephens County for their investment in speed to market solutions like site preparation, and we are excited to welcome SungEel to Georgia.”

SungEel will build its facility in the Hayestone Brady Business Park in Toccoa, about a 45-minute drive from the SK facility in Commerce.

In November, Aurubis opened a $340 million recycling and copper smelting facility in Augusta. Ascend Elements, a partner of SK, operates a recycling facility in Covington near the future Rivian plant.

Information about state incentives to the company were not immediately released.