Redwood Materials, founded by ex-Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has announced its expansion into Europe. While Redwood remains rather vague about its plans for Europe in a corresponding official announcement, JB Straubel was more specific in an interview in Germany.
As Straubel told Der Spiegel, at least two large factories for recycling and the sustainable production of battery materials are planned in Europe. To this end, he would invest several billion euros over the next few years. His team is already looking for locations – Straubel has concrete ideas: The plants should be built as close as possible to existing car and battery factories.
Straubel says that, in addition to Scandinavia, Great Britain, and Eastern Europe, Germany is also a possibility. Large battery factories are located or planned in all the countries and regions mentioned – from industry giants like LG Energy Solution in Poland to well-known companies like Envision AESC in Sunderland, UK, or young companies like Northvolt in Sweden or Britishvolt in England. In addition, there are battery plants under construction by Chinese manufacturers such as CATL near Erfurt or SVOLT in the German Saarland, as well as the efforts of German carmakers with VW in Salzgitter and Stellantis and Mercedes in Kaiserslautern. The list of potential partners in Europe is long. Not to be forgotten is Straubel’s former employer Tesla, which wants to build a battery factory at its Giga Berlin location in Grünheide in addition to the vehicle plant. Through Panasonic, Tesla will also be the first carmaker to build batteries with recycled material from Redwood.
As Straubel told Der Spiegel, Redwood is to produce sustainable raw materials for batteries in Europe from 2024. With this expansion, Redwood wants to participate in the electric car market in Europe, where the market has recently developed much more dynamically than in the USA. Tesla dominates the EV market there, but the big US manufacturers are only now gradually coming up with their electric vehicle models. Redwood has already entered into a cooperation with Ford. But the US carmaker is only just setting up its own battery production, in which Ford could use the recycled materials along with SK Innovation.
Due to the market development in Europe, Straubel sees the next supply bottleneck approaching the car industry. “After the chip crisis, the next threat is massive bottlenecks in battery materials,” the Redwood boss told Der Spiegel. Currently, the company is in negotiations with other partners. According to Straubel, these include German manufacturers.
Straubel has the relevant contacts from his time at Tesla: he once guided VW boss Herbert Diess through Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, and Staubel also sits on the board of directors of the US solid-state battery developer QuantumScape, in which VW has a stake. Straubel has been acquainted with Northvolt boss Peter Carlsson since their time together at Tesla.
Redwood Materials, founded in 2017, announced last year that it would expand its activities beyond pure recycling and also produce battery materials from the recovered raw materials itself. Initially, this will involve copper foils for anode production. The plant is being built in the same industrial area where Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 is located. There, Panasonic installs the foils in the 2170 round cells for Tesla.
With the US production of anode foils, Redwood also wants to increase the sustainability of the product, not only through recycling. The vast majority of anode foils are currently produced in Asia – with correspondingly long transport routes to the US or Europe. “By localising copper foil in the US, we are making this product more sustainable while reducing supply chain costs and risks,” the company said. “By localising this product alone, Redwood will save more than 5,500 tonnes of CO2 each year.”
So something similar is now planned for Europe. While the company itself still chose very general wording in the announcement, according to the Spiegel report the plans are already much further along. According to the report, ex-BASF manager Dirk Demuth is to head the European expansion. Among other things, he was responsible for the development, distribution and production of catalytic converters for the car industry. His first big task: to hire dozens of specialists and managers at short notice.
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