Redwood Materials Adds VW to its Long List of OEM Customers Besides Ford and Toyota

Volkswagen asks Redwood Materials to recycle its American battery packs 7 photos
Photo: Volkswagen
Volkswagen asks Redwood Materials to recycle its American battery packsVolkswagen asks Redwood Materials to recycle its American battery packsVolkswagen asks Redwood Materials to recycle its American battery packsRedwood Materials will recycle Toyota's batteriesFord and Redwood Materials Join Forces to Recycle Battery PacksFord and Redwood Materials Join Forces to Recycle Battery Packs
In September 2021, Ford announced it would invest $50 million in Redwood Materials and ask the company to recycle the battery packs from its electric cars. In June, Toyota said the same for the battery packs in its hybrid vehicles (made of nickel-metal hydride) and EVs (with lithium-ion cells). Now it is Volkswagen’s turn to associate with the company founded by JB Straubel.
The plan is restricted to the U.S.: all battery packs from Volkswagen and Audi electric cars sold in the country should end up in Redwood Materials’ Northern Nevada plants. The company states it can recover 95% of the “nickel, cobalt, lithium, and copper” used in these components.

Redwood Materials again mentioned that all these Volkswagen Group battery packs would follow a closed-loop approach. In other words, batteries coming from the German carmaker that can no longer have a second life as a stationary energy storage device will be recycled to give more raw materials to the Volkswagen Group and no one else.

That shows once again how crucial these raw materials will be. Volkswagen already said it would lease its electric cars even as used vehicles just to retain the property of the battery packs. When they are no longer suitable for EV use, Volkswagen will send them for other purposes and recycle the rest of the vehicle.

Theoretically, these cars could get back to work with a new battery pack, but we doubt that is going to happen. After all, carmakers make money from selling new cars, not recovered old ones. In other words, we will probably never see classic electric vehicles.

Redwood Materials said it currently receives 6 GWh in lithium-ion batteries to recycle – or most of the cells that end up in the recycle bin. That is enough to make around 60,000 EVs, a very low number: Tesla sold an average of 79,511 Model 3 and Model Y units per month in Q2 2022. We bet most of these cells come from tablets, cell phones, laptops, and anything other than EVs that needs a battery.

As Redwood Materials rightfully says, only “the first wave of electric vehicles” – manufactured in the early 2010s – is retiring now. New EVs are getting more resilient battery packs, which means their cells will live a lot more than these early electric cars. It will take a while for the recycling company to recover relevant levels of raw materials.

What Redwood Materials argues is that the beauty of batteries is that their metals are infinitely recyclable. By getting them back to work in new cells, the recycling company reduces carbon emissions and lowers the price of these raw materials just by preventing them from traveling long distances (more than 50,000 miles in some cases). Sadly, it will take time and will not contain more intensive mining.

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Editor's note: The gallery contains images of Redwood Materials recycling efforts.

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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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