So far there has been much speculation, but little official information about Redwood Materials, the recycling start-up founded by ex-Tesla CTO JB Straubel. Now Straubel has given more details about the plans of Redwood Materials in an interview.
+ + Kindly see our update below + +
Straubel told the Wall Street Journal that the company’s goal is a “reverse gigafactory”. In the recycling factory, the startup wants to make expensive cell materials such as nickel, cobalt and lithium available again and thus lower the price. Straubel points out that the entire market for electric cars and their batteries is still dominated by the cost of the raw materials required for battery cells.
Redwood’s planned recycling should make the materials so cheap that “the whole equation changes” and the industry really gets going. According to Straubel, 50 to 75 per cent of battery costs are still accounted for by raw materials. That’s why he sees the greater potential for reducing costs.
Straubel envisions a process that is so efficient that “batteries coming from the mountain of electric cars being retired in coming years could be quickly stripped down, recycled for their core materials, and used to rebuild new power cells, creating a closed loop [in which] hardly any materials are lost.” Details of how the mechanical dismantling of the battery cells is to take place have not yet been revealed. The automated dismantling and separation of the individual materials on an industrial scale is the great challenge facing recycling companies.
In a financing round earlier this year, Redwood Materials is said to have raised around 40 million dollars from investors, including funds in which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are involved. In addition, Redwood plans to grow from the current 50 employees to approximately 200 by year-end. A prominent new addition came from Tesla: Kevin Kassekert, who was involved in the construction of Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, has since moved to the startup.
Redwood has already gained an important partner: Panasonic. The waste produced in the Japanese battery production in Gigafactory 1 is apparently delivered directly to Redwood. A connection to Straubel’s ex-employer Tesla, which Redwood Materials has repeatedly been accused of, is therefore only possible via Panasonic.
Redwood’s focus will apparently only shift to electric car batteries in the future, whereby there are currently too few old batteries on the market. Instead, Redwood is working on recycling smartphone batteries in parallel.
Update 21 September 2020: Redwood has found a new potent investor. Amazon has invested in Redwood Materials as part of its two billion US dollar Climate Pledge Fund. Amazon remains silent about the investment amount. Through the Climate Pledge Funds Amazon also participated in the last financing round of the electric car start-up Rivian in July 2020.
In its first round, the Climate Pledge Funds invested in a total of five companies, not only in the field of electric mobility. CarbonCure Technologies is working on commercial solutions to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Pachama wants to improve access to CO2 markets and Turntide Technologies is developing more efficient electric motors that do not require rare earth materials.
Also this week, Li-Cycle announced a battery recycling Hub in New York State, the first of its kind in North America.
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