Panasonic will begin using copper from recycled batteries supplied by Redwood Materials to manufacture new lithium-ion batteries at its factory in Nevada later this year. According to TechCrunch, the first recycled material from Redwood will be copper foil, a vital component of the anode side of a battery cell. The anode is typically made of copper foil coated with graphite. Redwood will begin producing the copper foil in the first half of 2022 and Panasonic will start using it to make new lithium-ion cells by the end of the year.
Last September, Redwood Materials announced plans to produce critical battery materials in the United States. It is building a $2 billion factory that will produce cathodes and anode foils with a projected annual volume of 100 gigawatt-hours worth of materials by 2025. That’s enough batteries made from recycled materials to power 1,000,000 electric cars.
“Our work together to establish a domestic circular supply chain for batteries is an important step in realizing the full opportunity that EVs have to shape a much more sustainable world,” said Allan Swan, president of Panasonic Energy of North America during last September’s presentation.
The announcement marks Panasonic’s push to use more recycled materials, which in turn helps it reduce the amount of newly mined raw materials it must rely on. It also shows how Redwood continues to grow its business.
Redwood Materials was founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel in 2017 with the mission of creating a circular supply chain. Have you ever heard of a similar effort to take old infernal combustion engines, melting them down, and using recycled iron, steel, and aluminum to make new engine blocks, camshafts, crankshafts, pistons, cylinders, and connecting rods? No, you bet your sweet bippy you haven’t.
Redwood Materials recycles scrap from battery cell production as well as batteries from cellphones, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters, and electric bicycles. It extracts materials like cobalt, nickel, and lithium, which it supplies back to Panasonic and other customers to make new cells. Redwood says it is also working with Amazon and AESC Envision in Tennessee. The objective is to create a closed loop system that will ultimately help reduce the cost of batteries and offset the need for mining.
Anti-EV advocates like to scream at the top of their lungs that making batteries for electric vehicles will create lots of pollution, conveniently ignoring the massive pollution caused for the past 100+ years by the fossil fuel industry. Hopefully, news of successful battery recycling operations like Redwood Materials and Li-Cycle will stop their constant yapping.
Stanford researchers are working on ways to inject new life into the lithium used in today’s batteries. The truth of the matter is that electric cars are sparking a whole new interest in a circular economy, something that was never possible when gasoline and diesel engines ruled the roads. That is excellent news for any humans who think it would be nice to keep the Earth habitable for future generations.