Toyota partners with Tesla co-founder Redwood Materials to recycle Prius and EV batteries

Redwood Materials, a battery recycler created by Tesla co-founder and former chief technology officer JB Straubel, adds Toyota to a growing list of global automakers it is working with to create a closed-loop supply chain for needed materials. powering electric vehicles.

The partnership will initially focus on monitoring, recovering and recycling aging batteries from Toyota’s Prius, which came out more than two decades ago, and other hybrid-electric vehicles the Japanese auto giant sells, including Lexus models, at the Redwood facility in northern Nevada. The Carson City-based company will also seek other uses for old Toyota batteries, including refurbishing them for use in new hybrids, said co-founder and CEO Straubel. Over time, as Toyota increases sales of purely electric models and begins manufacturing batteries at a plant it is building in North Carolina, Redwood will also strive to collect and recycle those packs.

Redwood, a closely held company, has already started collecting Toyota batteries, but does not share financial details of its relationship with the automaker. Straubel also declined to say whether Toyota is investing in his startup. A key difference brought about by the relationship with Toyota is the massive number of hybrid vehicles the company has sold in the United States over the past 20 years.

“We are thrilled with this one,” said Straubel Forbes. “It has a huge potential impact (for Redwood) when you look at the existing fleet of electrified Toyotas on the road. It’s really big. am convinced that they are advancing aggressively on this point now and will continue to do so.

Toyota’s decision to work with Redwood recalls the automaker’s large $50 million investment in Tesla in 2010 and the sale of its idle Fremont, Calif., auto plant to the then-struggling startup. If that deal hadn’t happened then, it’s unlikely Tesla would have started building its groundbreaking Model S sedan in 2012, which redefined the electric vehicle space. Straubel also worked directly with Toyota engineers on a battery-powered version of the RAV4 crossover using Tesla batteries and motors that the Japanese company briefly sold.

“There are a number of the same team members on the North American side of Toyota” involved in the Redwood project that Straubel worked with over a decade ago, he said. “There’s no direct connection between the two projects, but it feels like a surprisingly small world, especially when it comes to electric vehicles.”

Since 2000, Toyota has sold approximately 2 million Prius models in the United States and hundreds of thousands of other Toyota and Lexus hybrids.

(For more on JB Straubel and Redwood materials, see Tesla Tech Whiz extracts the riches of your old batteries.”)

Straubel, who led the development of Tesla’s early battery system and motors and oversaw the company’s Nevada Gigafactory, focused on solving the long-term challenge of finding enough materials to supply all the batteries needed as the automotive industry transitions from oil to electricity. During his time at the EV company, he determined that recycling used batteries was the best option to achieve this.

Redwood, which has raised more than $800 million, has previously said it will work with Ford and Volvo Cars to collect and recycle their aging EV packs, and is also working with battery giant Panasonic and lithium-ion cell maker ion Envision AESC.

Redwood estimates it processes more than 6 GWh of end-of-life batteries per year, although the amount continues to rise, according to Straubel. From these packs, it recovers and resells enough materials and metals, including lithium, cobalt, copper and nickel, to make battery packs that can accommodate up to 100,000 new electric vehicles. The company aims to start manufacturing anode and cathode components at a US plant for 100 GWh of batteries by 2025, enough for more than a million electric vehicles a year. By the end of the decade, it hopes to ramp up production to supply enough battery material for 5 million electric vehicles a year.

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