Former Tesla CTO JB Straubel secures recycling deal with Nissan LEAF battery supplier

Redwood Materials, the battery recycling venture of former Tesla executive JB Straubel, has signed a recycling agreement with Envision AESC, the Nissan LEAF battery manufacturer.

The deal with Envision AESC by Redwood Material is the latest move for Straubel’s company, which intends to recycle raw battery materials in an effort to provide recycled cell materials to the rapidly expanding EV market as the development of electric vehicles continues to increase globally.

EV batteries are made of many materials today, but the most common are cobalt, lithium, and nickel. The need for battery materials has become more prevalent since the EV market reached growing levels of adoption globally, which has been led by Tesla for several years. Although making new batteries is still an option, Redwood plans to recycle the existing, defective, or damaged battery cells and scrap materials to minimize the global impact mining has on the environment and waste storage.

“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,” Straubel said according to CNBC. Straubel left Tesla in 2019, two years after starting Redwood Materials.

Ultimately, the goal of the organization is to return used battery materials to a state where they are once again functional in cells. The recycling process for Redwood is highly efficient, and Strauble says it is difficult to discern which materials are brand new, directly from a mine or processing facility, and which are recycled by Redwood.

“We bring the materials back to a very clean and sort of fundamental state, so there is no loss in effectiveness,” he said. “It’s actually indistinguishable whether there is cobalt coming via an old battery or from a mine.”

The secret to keeping the electric vehicle market going is recycling materials from EV batteries. The world does not produce enough of the materials that are used in EV batteries, according to industry experts, particularly at the rate that they are mined to meet the demand for cells. This raises the need for new battery materials or projects for recycling.

Sam Jaffe, Managing Director at Cairn ERA, an energy consulting firm, said:

“To make the batteries the world needs in ten 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.”

Redwood’s objective is to spread across more manufacturers and become responsible for recycling activities across the industry as a whole. Envision AESC manufactures its batteries in Smyrna, Tennessee.

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