Former Tesla executive, JB Straubel’s battery recycling venture Redwood Materials signs a recycling deal with Envision AESC, the battery manufacturer for the Nissan LEAF.
With raw materials such as Cobalt, Lithium and Nickel used in electric vehicle batteries in ever more demand, Redwood Materials has reached an agreement to recycle scrap and defective battery cells for Envision AESC, to supply battery makers and auto companies with those in short supply for their EV production.
In an interview with CNBC, JB Straubel, founder and CEO of Redwood Materials said:
“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.”
“We bring the materials back to a very clean and sort of fundamental state so there is no loss in effectiveness.” He added: “It’s actually indistinguishable whether there is cobalt coming via an old battery or from a mine.”
Cobalt, lithium, nickel, and other minerals and metals used in EV batteries have seen prices shoot up to 52-week highs. Fueling the rise in prices is an announced surge in lithium-ion battery production as automakers from Tesla to General Motors and Ford dramatically increase EV plans over the next decade.
Sam Jaffe, managing director at Cairn ERA, an energy consulting firm said:
“To make the batteries the world needs in 10 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.”
Jaffe also pointed out that U.S. lithium-ion battery demand topped 43-megawatt hours last year and will climb to 482-megawatt hours by 2030.
Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of engineering and battery technology at Panasonic Energy North America, believes the booming EV plans means the industry has to look at recycling batteries as a new source for key minerals. She said:
“There’s a lot of energy spent extracting these minerals and it makes absolutely no sense to landfill them.” She added: “We would be really foolish if we didn’t take advantage of the capacity of older cells, to create the next generation.“
Straubel said: “I’m a little surprised that some of the big OEMs (automakers) have taken perhaps a little longer to get fully pivoted and oriented in this direction.” He added: “I’m also a little surprised at how many other successful and growing start-ups there are.”