Recycling start-up Redwood Materials, founded by ex-Tesla CTO JB Straubel, is partnering with Envision AESC, the battery business sold by Nissan to Envision Group. Specifically, Redwood Materials will recycle cells from Envision AESC’s US production facility in Smyrna.
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Envision AESC is Redwood’s second partner after Panasonic. Nothing is known about the value and scope of the contract between the two parties. At its plant in Smyrna in the US state of Tennessee, AESC produces batteries for electric buses, stationary energy storage and the Nissan Leaf, among others.
“Envision AESC’s partnership with Redwood Materials will allow all of the manufacturing scrap from our US factory to be recycled and then Redwood to supply material to AESC,” expresses Bill Williams, Envision AESC’s business development director. This circular supply chain supports Envision AESC’s strong commitment to sustainability and creates significant cost savings for Envision AESC that will be passed on to future electric vehicles and energy products.
Redwood Materials is already working with Tesla partner Panasonic to recycle batteries from Panasonic’s Tesla plant in Nevada. A connection to Straubel’s ex-employer, which Redwood Materials has repeatedly been accused of, therefore only exists via the Panasonic diversions.
JB Straubel provided additional details about Redwood Materials’ plans in an interview last year. Straubel told the Wall Street Journal at the time that the company’s goal was a “reverse gigafactory”. In the recycling factory, the start-up wants to make expensive cell materials such as nickel, cobalt and lithium available again and thus lower the price for the raw materials.
Straubel, according to this earlier report, envisions a process so efficient that it can “quickly strip batteries, recycle their core materials and use them to rebuild new cells, creating a closed loop where hardly any materials are lost.” However, details of how the mechanical dismantling of the battery cells will proceed were not given at the time. What is clear, however, is that Redwood’s focus will only shift to electric car batteries in the future; currently there are still too few old batteries on the market. Instead, Redwood is working in parallel on the recycling of smartphone batteries.
Update 17 June 2021: Redwood Materials has announced plans for further expansion. The company has purchased a 40-acre site near Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada and plans to expand its current approximately 14,000-square-meter facility in Nevada to 51,000 square meters within the next two years. The number of employees at Redwood Materials is expected to increase from the current 130 to more than 600 in the next two years.
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