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Redwood Materials Recycles 500K Pounds of EV Batteries

March 22, 2023 by Shannon Cuthrell

Nevada-based battery recycling company Redwood Materials recently disclosed the results of its pilot program in California. 

A year after launching its first electric vehicle battery recycling program in California, Redwood Materials now reveals that it collected 1,268 battery packs and recycled around 500,000 pounds of material at its Nevada facility. Starting in February 2022 with Ford and Volvo as partners, the pilot expanded over the last 12 months to collect batteries from Toyota and Volkswagen/Audi EVs.

 

Redwood Materials employees disassemble used electric vehicle battery packs. Image used courtesy of Redwood Materials

 

The company worked with nonprofit dismantling groups, such as the California Auto Dismantlers and Recyclers Alliance and Virginia-headquartered Automotive Recyclers Association, to collect and recycle lithium-ion and older nickel metal hydride EV batteries. The latter type only accounted for 18% of Redwood’s collected battery packs, while 82% were industry-standard lithium-ion batteries.

California was a fitting choice for the trial, as it’s home to the most EV drivers in the country and plans to ban gas-powered car sales by 2035. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and fuel cell EVs accounted for nearly 20% of the state’s new car sales in 2022. Comparatively: Per nationwide data from Argonne National Laboratory, BEVs and PHEVs only claimed around 7% of all light-duty auto sales in the U.S. last year. California also led the country in plug-in vehicle registrations last year, with just over 27 registrations per 1,000 people, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

 

The one-year results of Redwood Materials’ battery recycling program in California. Image used courtesy of Redwood Materials

 

In its press release, Redwood touted its ability to recover 95% of metals through its refining process. The company is now transforming the collected packs in California—of which less than 5% were damaged, defective, or recalled—into new anode and cathode battery materials, which will then be rerouted back to battery cell manufacturers.

Redwood’s partners include several battery makers, such as Japanese conglomerate Panasonic, which signed a deal last year to source Redwood’s cathode material for production out of its upcoming plant in Kansas, scheduled to launch in 2025.

 

Redwood Is Scaling Production

To meet demand, Redwood is investing billions of dollars in advancing its technology and scaling its capacity to 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh), which equates to enough material for 1 million EVs by 2025. By the end of the decade, it plans to increase its anode and cathode production to 500 GWh per year, serving 5 million EVs. This would be a significant jump from its stated capacity last year when the company disclosed it received around 6 GWh of end-of-life batteries annually for recycling.

 

A panoramic view of Redwood Materials’ facility in Nevada. Image used courtesy of Redwood Materials

 

Redwood started producing anode copper foil at its Nevada facility in January. The company recently secured a conditional agreement for a $2 billion loan from the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which will support the expansion of its 173-acre campus at Nevada’s Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.

Separately, Redwood also plans to invest $3.5 billion in building a 600-acre battery production and recycling plant in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

Recycled copper at Redwood Materials’ production facility. Image used courtesy of Redwood Materials

 

Federal Policy, Incentives in Battery Recycling Market

In announcing the one-year milestone of its California pilot program earlier this month, Redwood Materials pushed for government policies to guide EV battery recycling and end-of-life management activities. In its press release, the company advocated for an Extended Producer Responsibility framework that allows vehicle manufacturers to either collaborate with recyclers or independently recycle the materials. This contrasts with a mandated Producer Responsibility Organization, which Redwood argues would lead to “choosing winners and losers.” Under this approach, third-party entities take on the entire collection/recycling process to ensure regulatory compliance. 

Redwood added that recycling partners must be able to refine materials into battery-grade metals that could be injected back into component manufacturing. Without the ability to produce those refined metals, recyclers would only produce intermediates and likely ship to non-domestic sources. 

These calls come as $10 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act is set to be doled out to projects focusing on domestic critical mineral production, EV battery manufacturing and recycling, and other areas. Several major battery and car manufacturers plan to use the law’s incentives to ramp up their U.S.-based production capacity. 

The Inflation Reduction Act includes a $7,500 clean vehicle tax credit with domestic manufacturing requirements. Effective this year, the tax credit is divided into two categories ($3,750 each) with different qualifications: Beginning this year, at least 40% of the value of the battery’s critical minerals must have been extracted/processed in the U.S. or its free trade partners or recycled in North America. For the second half, at least 50% of the value of the battery components must have been manufactured or assembled in North America. (These percentages increase by 10% each year after 2023.)