Bulletins

Electric vehicle battery recycling is starting in California

Ford and Volvo are the first two automakers to join the program, started by an ex-Tesla exec.

The battery of a Tesla Model Y has been cut open.

The battery of a Tesla Model Y, cut open, in a production hall of the Tesla Gigafactory.

Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Redwood Materials Inc., founded by ex-Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel, is launching an electric vehicle battery-recycling program in California. Automakers Ford and Volvo are the first to partner with the Carson City, Nevada-based company.


Redwood Materials announced in a press release this week that it will be collecting and recycling hybrid and EV battery packs at the end of their useful life into new battery materials. It says it will accept all lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride batteries in the state of California.

"We must develop a closed-loop supply chain that recycles and re-manufactures old batteries into new with high efficiency. This is critical to enable both the state of California and broader U.S. electrification goals," Straubel said in a video on the company's YouTube page.

Though hybrids have been around for decades, we're still a few years out from the first major wave of EV getting retired from the road. But Redwood Materials is not alone in getting a head start on developing recycling technology and infrastructure to deal with the coming influx of tapped-out batteries. Last year, Massachusetts-based startup Ascend Elements announced a partnership with Honda to provide the automaker with new cathodes made from recycled lithium-ion batteries, with plans to build the largest battery recycling plant in North America.

Redwood Materials currently recycles more than 6 gigawatt hours of batteries each year, enough for 60,000 EVs, according to the company. Volvo is aiming for its lineup to be fully electric by 2030 and be a circular business by 2040, something battery recycling will help it achieve. Ford's carbon-neutral target date is 2050, and the company had previously invested $50 million in Redwood Materials.

"It goes without saying that California is in the front lines of climate change," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in the company's promotional video. "With raging wildfires and record droughts, we know there's no time to waste."

California is planning to end the sale of new gas or diesel-fueled cars by 2035. The state's environmental agency is working with Redwood Materials to help streamline recycling efforts, according to Bloomberg. The Biden administration has set a goal, meanwhile, of half of all auto sales being EVs by 2030. To help meet that goal, the administration recently announced $5 billion in funding for states to build out charging infrastructure. Battery recycling will play an equally important role in shaping the future of EVs, helping to cut down on e-waste and the need for harmful mining practices for lithium and other minerals.

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