Author: Eric Walz
Automaker Toyota Motor North America has announced a new collaboration with electric vehicle battery recycling startup Redwood Materials, a company founded by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel. The two companies plan to build a complete closed-loop ecosystem for recycling batteries from Toyota’s future hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
The collaboration will include the collection, testing and recycling of used vehicle batteries into raw materials to create a sustainable supply chain. Toyota and Redwood Materials also aim to develop second-life opportunities for remanufactured and reused hybrid electric vehicle batteries by leveraging battery health screening tools and vehicle data.
Toyota and Redwood Materials will aim to integrate battery recycling through domestic battery material manufacturing into the automaker’s battery production strategy, beginning in North America.
The collaboration with Redwood will support Toyota’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
“We are excited to work with Redwood Materials to identify solutions for our end-of-life electrified powertrains that contribute to our vision of creating a circular and sustainable battery ecosystem,” said Christopher Yang, Group Vice President of Development. commercial at Toyota. “We are committed to developing sustainable solutions that enable our batteries to provide value beyond the initial lifecycle of an electrified vehicle. It also contributes to our carbon neutral goals and our mission to build a more sustainable world for all.
Redwood Materials was founded in 2017 by Straubel, who co-founded electric carmaker Tesla with Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning before Elon Musk joined the company. Straubel was Tesla’s first chief technical officer (CTO) and fifth employee. Although he left Tesla in 2019, Straubel started Redwood Materials while still working for the electric carmaker.
Redwood believes that to make electric vehicles sustainable and truly affordable, solutions for collecting, recycling and remanufacturing end-of-life batteries into new battery materials must be in place.
Although the automotive industry is still in the early stages of electrification, as the number of end-of-life batteries increases, Redwood Materials expects end-of-life batteries to become valuable assets.
Redwood Materials’ battery recycling strategy helps reduce the environmental footprint and cost of lithium-ion batteries by providing large-scale sources of household anode and cathode materials produced from recycled batteries.
Redwood currently receives over 6 GWh of end-of-life batteries each year for recycling, which are then refined and remanufactured into anode foil and cathode active materials, which are the positively and negatively charged components of a battery that stores electricity.
Redwood plans to increase production of anode and cathode components in the United States to 100 GWh per year by 2025, which is enough to power more than one million electric vehicles per year. By 2030, the startup expects its production to reach 500 GWh/year, which is enough to produce batteries for around 5 million electric vehicles.
“Toyota helped pave the way for clean transportation with the introduction of the Toyota Prius over 20 years ago. Their commitment to not only sell millions of electrified vehicles this decade, but also to ensure their circularity in the future is a crucial step for electrification. said JB Straubel, founder and CEO of Redwood Materials. “Redwood and Toyota’s shared vision to reduce the environmental footprint and the cost of transportation will continue to accelerate the adoption and access to electric vehicles.”
Redwood Materials founder JB Straubel (left) and Toyota group vice president of business development Christopher Yang.
In 2019, Tesla’s battery partner Panasonic entered into a partnership with Redwood Materials to recover all scrap materials generated from the production of battery cells at Tesla’s gigafactory in Nevada. Currently, all scrap materials generated from battery production are shipped to the nearby Redwood, Nevada plant for recycling.
Redwood says its EV battery recycling technology can recover, on average, more than 95% of elements like nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper. Once recycled, these materials can be reused to produce active anode and cathode materials for future batteries.
In July 2021, Redwood Materials announced a $700 million investment which it is using to build a battery materials plant in the United States.
Redwood is also working with Ford Motor Co on battery recycling. In September 2021, the company announced its partnership with Ford to establish electric vehicle battery recycling operations and a national battery supply chain.
The collaboration between Ford and Redwood will integrate battery recycling into Ford’s domestic EV battery strategy as the automaker develops more purely electric vehicles like the Mustang Mach-E and Ford F-150 Lightning.
The goal of Redwood’s partnership with Ford is to make electric vehicles more sustainable and reduce the cost of batteries by creating a closed-loop recycling ecosystem. But it will also help Ford reduce its reliance on imported electric vehicle batteries and raw material mining, which can also help cut costs.
The high cost of EV batteries is one of the barriers to the widespread adoption of electrified vehicles. Although battery production costs have come down significantly over the years, it still costs automakers about $140 for every kWh of battery power. Tesla’s 2022 Model 3 Long Range, for example, comes with an 82 kWh battery, which translates to around $11,480.
Toyota’s plans for electric vehicles include new and increased production of automotive batteries in the United States. The automaker recently announced a $1.3 billion investment in a new North American battery plant named Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina (TBMNC). When completed, TBMNC is expected to produce batteries for 1.2 million electrified vehicles per year.
Toyota plans to sell eight million electrified vehicles globally by 2030, which includes investing around $70 billion to develop new battery-powered models.
In 2020, Straubel said it wants Redwood Materials to become the world’s first electric vehicle battery recycler.
In February, Redwood announced plans to launch a comprehensive battery recycling program in California, the state with the most electric vehicles on the road. Ford and Volvo Cars were the first automakers to directly support the program. However, Redwood said it will accept all lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries in the state and invites other automakers to join its recycling efforts by California.
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