People always like to say so-and-so is “the smartest guy in the room.” Could be Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk, all of whom have some claim to being fairly bright. But if you are making a Top Ten list of some truly smart people, JB Straubel has to be at or very near the top.
He may have been overshadowed a bit by Elon Musk while he was at Tesla, but Straubel was the visionary and technical guru who helped Tesla get started and survive during its first few years of existence. Then Straubel stepped aside as chief technology officer at Tesla and went in search of new mountains to climb.
Donald Peterson, a former CEO of Ford Motor Company, once stunned the business world by walking away when he was on top. He explained his departure by saying people need to re-pot themselves every 10 years or so. You horticulturalists in the group know plants get root bound after a while and need to be transplanted to larger pots that will allow their roots to grow.
Straubel decided his next venture would be figuring out how to reclaim the precious materials in the lithium-ion batteries Tesla and other companies are using to power their electric cars. Since the very beginning of the electric car era, trolls paid by the fossil fuel industry have been throwing any mud they could find at the wall, hoping some of it would stick.
Charging all those EVs would crash the electrical grid; electric cars recharge using electricity from coal generating stations; EVs cost too much, have too short a range, and take too long to charge. One person left a comment recently claiming that electric car owners just drive their cars into lakes and rivers when they stop working because replacing the batteries is too expensive. There are always plenty of weak-minded people who are only too wiling to believe anything they see or hear online.
Oddly, these same shills never mention that drilling for gas and oil has turned many parts of the world into open sewers with environmental damage that’s worse than Chernobyl. It has polluted our rivers and turned the Earth into a furnace, but let’s not talk about that.
A Very Straubel Genius
What JB Straubel understood long before most other people is that it is possible to reclaim most of the materials used to make lithium-ion batteries when they reach the end of their useful life so they can be reused to make new batteries. In fact, he says his new venture, Redwood Materials, can recapture up to 95% of the lithium, cobalt, magnesium, copper, aluminum, and other ingredients found in those old batteries. His vision is to create a battery factory that someday can recycle enough raw materials to make 500 GWh of batteries a year — enough to power 5 million electric cars. He claims doing so will reduce the carbon footprint of the battery manufacturing process by more than 40%.
Ford Steps In
Redwood Materials has already attracted investments from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, and Goldman Sachs. Now Ford says it is throwing $50 million into the pot. According to ABC News, Ford and Redwood will collaborate on ways to collect and disassemble used batteries from Ford EVs so they can be recycled and remanufactured. Have you ever heard of gasoline engines being recycled? No, you bet your sweet bippy you haven’t.
Ford has already announced plans to build two North American battery factories in partnership with SK Innovation starting in 2025. Ford expects 40% of its global sales to be fully electric by 2030.
The editors of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal may not be able to discern the EV revolution taking place right outside their windows, but Ford executives are not throwing $50 million away for no reason. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows — unless you’re a member of the mainstream media.
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