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Volkswagen Partners With Redwood Materials for EV Battery Recycling

VW and Audi EV batteries will get a second lease of life through repurposing or recycling.

Volkswagen ID Aero
Future electric cars like the VW ID Aero may one day rock a battery pack made from components recycled from older EVs.

A question I hear a lot from people is, "Well, what are we going to do with all these EV batteries once they start getting older?" It's a great question, because electric-car batteries will eventually lose some capacity, requiring replacement and a plan for what to do with the old ones. For many, the answer is recycling or repurposing, and there's a company that wants to help automakers see that to fruition.

Volkswagen Group of America on Tuesday announced a partnership with Redwood Materials for the purpose of giving EV batteries a second life. Redwood Materials was formed in 2017 by former Tesla execs specifically to handle EV battery recycling and reuse, and since then, the company has forged partnerships in the auto industry, including with major manufacturers like Ford and Volvo.

How it works will be pretty straightforward. When an EV battery reaches the end of its traditional lifecycle -- when it's operating at about 70% of its original capacity -- VW and Audi dealerships will work with Redwood to package and transport the batteries to Redwood's facility in Nevada. Some packs will be given a second life as energy storage in other industries, while others will be broken down into their core components for use in new EV batteries.

Redwood says it can recover nearly all of a battery's components, which include elements like lithium, nickel and cobalt. This can provide battery manufacturers with a second source of these materials, which is great, because supplies are limited and extracting raw materials from the earth is not the greenest job in town. Currently, Redwood claims it recycles the equivalent of 60,000 EV batteries each year.

"Redwood and Volkswagen Group of America share a vision to create a domestic, circular supply chain for batteries that will help improve the environmental footprint of lithium-ion batteries, decrease cost and, in turn, increase access and adoption of electric vehicles," said Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel in a statement. "As more and more batteries reach end-of-life each year, an increasing and infinitely recyclable resource becomes available."