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Redwood Materials Is Creating a Recycling Path for Old EVs in California

Wondering what happens after your EV isn't roadworthy anymore? Redwood Materials wants to make sure the rare materials in those battery packs don't go to waste.

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The good stuff, recycled.
Ford

It wasn't that long ago that EV-minded American consumers outside of California were left longing for that state's expanded selection of alternative-fueled vehicles. That's largely changed -- most EVs are now available nationwide -- but California still vastly outpaces the nation, with 42% of all American EVs registered there in 2020. So if you're a company focused on recycling the battery packs at the heart of those cars, it makes sense you'd want a strong presence in the Golden State.

Redwood Materials, the battery recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel in 2017, announced Thursday that it's streamlining the process of EV battery recycling, making it easier for dealers and dismantlers in California to submit the packs they've received. Once flagged, Redwood Materials will package and transport the packs to Nevada, where the company's team of trained demolition experts will extract the good stuff. Straubel said the company will provide "a turnkey solution for whomever and wherever these batteries are."

Modern EV batteries are full of materials like lithium, not only terribly bad for the environment but rare and incredibly expensive (not to mention dangerous) to mine in the first place. This makes recycling of those materials doubly important. Redwood Materials pledges it can recover 95% of all those materials, including other goodies like nickel and cobalt.

Redwood announced a partnership with Ford last year, and as part of this California initiative is adding Volvo into the mix. How that partnership will play out remains to be seen, but the plan is to create "responsible and secure pathways for end-of-life batteries," according to the company.

In time, those batteries will provide the raw materials for the next generation of EVs produced here in the US, like at Volvo's South Carolina factory, which will pivot to exclusively produce EVs. "We aim to be climate neutral by 2040, and fully electric by 2030 and embracing a circular economy," Volvo Car USA CEO Anders Gustafsson said. "This is why we are excited about Redwood Materials' forward-thinking solutions for end-of-life battery packs to be collected, recycled and remanufactured."