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From recycling to production: bringing the EV battery supply chain to the US

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Even though the transition to battery electric vehicles is at an early stage, we’re well aware of the need to recycle and reuse the precious metals and materials contained within lithium-ion batteries.

Among the US recycling companies, Redwood Materials has emerged as a very competitive player, since its founding in 2017 by J.B. Straubel. Interestingly, Straubel revealed to Bloomberg that his company’s aim goes beyond recycling to bringing the battery supply chain from Asia to the US.

Filling the gap

Before Redwood, most U.S. recycling companies simply grounded up the batteries into a crude powder known as “black mass” for easy transportation. Then, they shipped those materials overseas to be refined and processed, according to Jeffrey Spangenberger, director of the Department of Energy’s ReCell Center.

However, this process has two disadvantages: the environmental impact of the materials’ transportation, and the dependence on foreign suppliers.

“We want to buy these materials once and then keep them here,” Spangenberger said. “The recycler and the manufacturer together — if that can be done under one roof, then we’re answering two questions at once.”

Redwood’s triple aim

The company wants to do away with the 80,000 kilometer (50,000 miles) supply chain of battery components, which are needed for the final production of an EV battery in the US.

Credit: Bloomberg