There is a growing global imperative to electrify and accelerate the reduction of fossil fuels.
Integral to this transition is a critical need for more batteries and the materials that comprise them. In fact, demand is projected to increase over 500% by 2030.
Here is the reality. Today’s supply chain requires critical materials move 50,000 miles before making their way into a cell. This poses enormous environmental, economic, and geopolitical risks that we see evident today.
What is the solution? It turns out we have one company right here in the Reno area that is transforming and building a circular supply chain to power our sustainable world. That company is Redwood Materials.
Think of Redwood Materials as a company that is creating a closed-loop, domestic supply chain for lithium-ion batteries across collection, refurbishment, recycling, refining, and remanufacturing of sustainable battery materials. Yes, this what-we-do is a lot to take in.
First, let’s take a step back and look at how this company started and is now intertwined with our clean energy future.
Redwood Materials was founded by JB Straubel who was the former Chief Technology Officer and a Co-Founder of Tesla. At Tesla, JB built one of the best engineering teams in the world. Aside from leading cell design and supply chain management, he led the first Gigafactory concept through the production ramp of the Tesla Model 3.
It became apparent to JB during his work with Tesla that there was going to be a tremendous need for a reliable, domestic, and circular flow of materials to produce lithium batteries that power long-range electrical vehicles (EVs). To that end, he founded Redwood Materials to create a circular supply chain to drive down the environmental footprint and cost of lithium-ion batteries and EVs along with the energy storage systems they power.
Here are some quick statistics to think about. 6 GWh of end-of-life batteries, enough to build more than 60,000 EVs, come through Redwood’s doors annually. This quantity represents much of the lithium-ion batteries recycled in North America today.
Redwood recovers more than 95% of the metals, including nickel, cobalt, lithium, and copper, from these batteries and uses the metals to remanufacture anode and cathode components. Redwood then turns around and supplies these components back to U.S. battery cell manufacturers with the metals never leaving our country.
By 2025, Redwood will ramp up anode copper foil and cathode production to 100 GWh annually. That’s enough for 1 million EVs a year, representing the first time these critical materials have been manufactured in the U.S. By 2030, expect to see 500 GWh which will enable the production of 5 million EVs or nearly half of U.S. vehicle production.
Where is Redwood Materials doing this? Redwood purchased and broke ground on 175 acres in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center near the Tesla Gigafactory for recycling and anode copper foil and cathode production. Redwood expects to invest $3.5 billion in Northern Nevada over the coming decade and hire more than 1,500 people at their Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center site.
A side note. The proximity to Redwood’s partner, Panasonic, allows Redwood to easily receive scrap materials from Panasonic’s battery manufacturing operations to be recycled. Panasonic will be the first customer to receive Redwood Materials anode copper foil for their cell production.
Redwood Materials has grown extensively in the past year. Redwood has reached approximately 600 employees. Every employee brings to the table extensive experience in a range of specialties from chemical engineering, mining, logistics, fabrication, software engineering, and more.
If you were to ask what is “very cool” about Redwood Materials, the likely response would be the opportunity to make electric vehicles and energy storage products fully sustainable and affordable. Redwood essentially closes the loop for end-of-life batteries. This means not just collecting and recycling the batteries but also continuing to fully refine the metals recovered. Redwood then manufactures those metals into precision battery materials (anode and cathode) for use again.
Redwood Materials will produce strategic battery materials in the U.S. for the first time. One primary reason for these efforts is, to date, nearly all anode and cathode production supplying U.S. battery manufacturers happens overseas in Asia. The anode and cathode components make up nearly 80% of the cost of a battery with cathode being the single most expensive component in an EV. It goes without saying there are benefits to our country having closed-loop control over its supply chain.
Redwood Materials’ focus is critical to the future of transportation and the electric grid. There are of course challenges faced by any U.S. company being the first on the block to propose solutions to critical raw material supply chain issues, recycling, and refining within U.S. borders. Redwood Materials’ innovative process is working to solve those problems with multiple benefits to the industry and environment.
NCET Tech Wednesday, November 9, is your opportunity to learn more about Redwood Materials and how recycling, refining, and remanufacturing materials can ensure a clean energy future.
Sign up early for Redwood Materials’ presentation from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and networking from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. More information at NCET.org.
Bill Leonard is VP of Communications at NCET and a freelance copywriter of lead-generating customer case studies, conversion-driven web and sales copy, success stories, and video testimonials. Connect with Bill at linkedin.com/in/billleonardusa. NCET produces education and networking events to help people explore business and technology.
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