Former Tesla executive JB Straubel’s battery recycling venture Redwood Materials has reached a recycling deal with Envision AESC, the battery manufacturer for the Nissan LEAF.
Redwood Material’s deal with Envision AESC is the latest move for Straubel’s company, which aims to recycle raw battery materials in an attempt to provide the quickly-growing EV sector with rejuvenated cell materials as electric vehicle production continues to soar globally.
Today, EV batteries are made of several materials, but cobalt, lithium, and nickel are the most popular. Ever since the EV sector, which has been led by Tesla for several years, has reached expanding levels of adoption globally, the need for battery materials has become more notable. While creating new batteries is always an option, Redwood plans to recycle the old, defective, or damaged battery cells and scrap materials to minimize the global impact mining has on the environment and waste storage.
“The sheer magnitude of the waste and scrap problem and the magnitude of batteries that need to get recycled is, I think, shocking to most people,” Straubel said according to CNBC. Straubel left Tesla in 2019, two years after starting Redwood Materials.
Ultimately, the company’s goal is to bring used battery materials back to a state where they are usable once again in cells. Redwood’s recycling process is highly effective, and Strauble says it is hard to distinguish which materials are brand new, straight from a mine or manufacturing plant, and which are recycled by Redwood.
“We bring the materials back to a very clean and sort of fundamental state, so there is no loss in effectiveness,” he said. “It’s actually indistinguishable whether there is cobalt coming via an old battery or from a mine.”
Recycling materials from EV batteries is a key to keeping the electric vehicle industry moving. According to industry experts, the world doesn’t produce enough of the materials that are used in EV batteries, especially at the rate that they are being mined to fulfill the need for cells. This increases the need for new battery materials or recycling programs.
Sam Jaffe, Managing Director at Cairn ERA, an energy consulting firm, said:
“To make the batteries the world needs in ten years, the industry will need 1.5 million tons of lithium, 1.5 million tons of graphite, 1 million tons of battery-grade nickel, and 500,000 tons of battery-grade manganese. The world produces less than a third of each of those materials today. New battery materials sources are highly valued and desperately needed.”
Redwood’s goal is to spread across more manufacturers and become responsible for recycling efforts across the entire sector. Envision AESC manufactures its batteries in Smyrna, Tennessee.