Ford & Volvo Join Redwood Materials Battery Recycling Program In California

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Together with Ford and Volvo, Redwood Materials, the battery recycling company founded by JB Straubel, is launching an electric vehicle battery recycling program in California. Ford is also an investor in the company. Redwood Materials will work with dealers and dismantlers in California to recover end-of-life battery packs in hybrid and electric vehicles.

According to TechCrunch, the battery recycling program will be free for those turning in vehicle batteries. The cost of retrieving, packaging, and transporting the batteries back to the Redwood Materials recycling facility in northern Nevada will be shared by the company and its partners, Volvo and Ford. Redwood will accept all lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride batteries in the state, regardless of the make or model of the vehicle.

“It is messy right now and there’s not an obvious, clear solution to people,” Straubel says. “That is a really key part of what we want to change and make it as easy as humanly possible for everyone in the United States initially, and in the world more broadly, to very simply recycle batteries and make sure those materials are recovered in very high percentage. I want to emphasize that we are learning in all of this and it’s a bit of the Wild West. I think that’s maybe partly why some of these things haven’t been more formalized today because it is a bit complex.”

Battery Recycling Is Here

Redwood was launched in 2017 with an aim to create a circular supply chain. The company recycles scrap from battery cell production as well as consumer electronics like cellphone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters, and electric bicycles. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel, and lithium that are typically mined, and then supplies those back to Panasonic and other customers, including Amazon, Ford, and AESC Envision in Tennessee. The aim is to create a closed-loop system that will ultimately help reduce the cost of batteries and offset the need for mining.

Earlier this year, existing partner Panasonic announced that battery cells made at the Gigafactory it operates with Tesla will use more recycled materials by the end of 2022 as part of an expanded relationship with Redwood Materials.  The company says it has begun offering recycled copper foil — one of the components of many lithium-ion batteries — to battery manufacturers.

The Takeaway

The fossil fuel industry is busy spreading lies about electric cars. They pollute more than conventional cars, their tires are filling the air with microscopic dust, they don’t pay their fair share for road maintenance, they are job killers, and soon landfills will be overflowing with traction batteries that have reached the end of their useful life. Be afraid. Be very afraid, is their message. JB Straubel, the former chief technology officer at Tesla, sees it differently. “Relax. We got this,” he seems to say.

The future of the world depends on creating a circular economy where we don’t pump carbon emissions into the atmosphere or dump our garbage into the sea. Redwood Materials is showing one component of that circular economy is not only possible but profitable. No wonder the fossil fuel magnates are frightened. They should be, as they see their business model crumble around them — and not a moment too soon.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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