Ford has invested $50 million in Redwood Materials, an EV battery recycling company founded by ex-Tesla chief technology officer JB Straubel. Not only does this partnership give Ford a place to send old batteries, but it places the motor company at the forefront of sustainable EV manufacturing, as it hopes to develop a “closed-loop” supply chain with Redwood.
Recycling spent lithium-ion batteries is a very difficult task, which is why they tend to end up in landfills. If a battery is lucky enough to be recycled (and not just shipped off to a mysterious “recycling” plant), then it will undergo a melting-and-extraction process to remove raw materials, such as copper and cobalt (the most expensive materials in L-ion batteries).
But this recycling process is inefficient, expensive, and extremely energy-intensive, so very few recycling companies are willing to go through the trouble. Not to mention, the lithium-ion recycling process can be quite wasteful. Batteries with a reduced capacity may end up in recycling even though they’re still useful for undemanding tasks.
Redwood Materials hopes to completely change the lithium-ion recycling process. It wants to develop what’s called a “closed-loop” supply chain where new batteries are made of recycled materials instead of imported materials. If done correctly, Redwood could reduce U.S. reliance on foreign suppliers. It could also limit the abusive and environmentally questionable mining practices that we see today.
Oh, and it could help U.S. companies like Ford cut down on manufacturing costs. While we should applaud Ford and Redwood Materials for their environmental pursuits, we need to acknowledge that money is still the motivating force for any business. So, here’s to hoping that Ford and Redwood make a lot of money, I guess!