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Redwood Materials To Supply Cathode Materials To New Panasonic Battery Factory

Panasonic has agreed to purchase cathode materials and copper foil from Redwood Materials for its battery factories in Nevada and Kansas.

Panasonic Energy announced this week it has agreed to purchase cathode active materials and copper foil for lithium-ion batteries from Redwood Materials.  The recycled cathode active materials will be used to manufacture batteries in the company’s new $4 billion factory located in De Soto, Kansas, starting in 2025 and the recycled copper foil will be used to make batteries at Panasonic’s facility in Sparks, Nevada, starting in 2024.

Panasonic Energy began partnering with Redwood Materials in 2019 when Redwood began recycling scrap material from the Nevada facility. Both the cathode active materials and the copper foil covered by this agreement will be manufactured using recycled material, making a major contribution towards Panasonic Energy’s goal of halving its carbon footprint by 2030 while increasing local procurement in North America.

“Recycling and a localizing supply chain are both essential to make the best use of limited natural resources,” said Kazuo Tadanobu, President and CEO of Panasonic Energy, in a press release. “Through this partnership with Redwood, Panasonic Energy will be able to use recycled materials in its high quality automotive batteries and contribute to the circular economy. In addition, the partnership allows us to procure cathode active materials for North American facilities in North America, making a powerful contribution to the company’s carbon footprint reduction.”

“We have very high expectations for this partnership and look forward to furthering our progress towards zero emissions alongside our partner, Redwood Materials. With superior technology and extensive experience, Panasonic Energy will continue to drive the growth of the lithium ion battery industry and contribute to the company’s mission to achieve “a society in which the pursuit of happiness and a sustainable environment are harmonized,” he added.

“I think it’s a bigger deal than is immediately obvious to most people just because no one really sees or is familiar with what a cathode material is or where it goes,” Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel tells CNBC. “It may be around fifty percent of the cost of the battery.”

Right now, Panasonic imports almost all of the cathode material used in the production of battery cells at its plant in Sparks, Nevada. That factory supplies cells to the Tesla Gigafactory next door. The new Panasonic factory in Kansas will use high nickel cathode material supplied by Redwood Materials when production starts in 2025.

For Straubel, the agreement with Panasonic Energy is further validation of his vision for Redwood Materials. When he started the company in 2017, he told investors and those following the company that battery recycling would be critical to the expansion and growth of electric vehicles, largely because it will be a more efficient and cost-effective way to supply the key components needed for battery cells. “That’s part of the significance of this announcement,” he said. “This is the largest and really first Gigafactory scale supply chain announcement for the supply chain of batteries in the US.”

Redwood Materials currently employs approximately 600 workers in the US and estimates that number to rise to approximately 1,500 by the time it is producing large quantities of high nickel cathode materials. By 2030, the company expects to produce enough anode and cathode materials each year to power five million electric vehicles.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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