Toyota has partnered with Redwood Materials, a battery recycling company led by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, to collect and recycle automotive batteries. The plan is to take old, worn-out batteries and either refurbish or break them down so that their materials can be used to make new batteries.
redwood specific plans for producing materials for anodes and cathodes — two important parts of a battery cell. The company’s ultimate goal is to create a “closed-loop supply chain for electric vehicles,” meaning it takes batteries from old EVs and converts them into batteries for new cars.
While Toyota is currently launching its first battery-electric long-haul vehicle, newer cars are not currently the focus of the partnership’s efforts, as their batteries are still relatively new.
Instead, Toyota and Redwood are targeting “the first wave of battery-electric vehicles,” which are more than 20 years old and approaching the end of their useful life. Usually that means first-generation Toyota Priuses in California. Redwood says it plans to have some operations in the future near “Toyota’s recently announced North American battery plant” on the east coast, likely referring to the one in North Carolina.
In particular, Redwood’s technology and methods for recycling vehicle batteries are not exactly proven. Company just launched his program to deal with end-of-life electric vehicles in February, with Ford and Volvo as partners. While Redwood has been planning to process batteries from vehicles for some time now, its ability to do so on a large scale is relatively untried.
On Tuesday, the company says it receives about six gigawatt hours of batteries a year for recycling — it hopes to produce 100 GWh of components by 2025 and five times that by 2030.
Those plans seem ambitious to say the least. But as Bloomberg points out, there is a lot of enthusiasm. Making EV batteries is extremely expensive and some companies struggle to do it on a large scale, hampering their ability to make EVs. It doesn’t look like that process will get cheaper anytime soon, so there’s certainly an incentive for automakers to seek out and help fund recycling efforts.