Ford signs deal with Redwood Materials to recycle EV batteries


September 23, 2021: -Ford is partnering with battery recycling start-up Redwood Materials to use again in the raw materials from EV battery packs. 

The agreement will begin with recycling scrap material from battery manufacturing, which is the latest indication automakers are taking steps to address the raw material’s supply and cost needed to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles.

“It will help us reduce the reliance to import a lot of the materials that we use today when we build the batteries, and then it will reduce the mining of raw materials, that goes to be incredibly important in the future as we start to scale,” said Lisa Drake, Ford’s chief operating officer. “Creating this domestic supply chain is a major step towards making electric vehicles more affordable and accessible to everyone.”

With EV sales in the U.S. expected to increase from an estimated 350,000 autos in 2021 to over a million annually by the year 2025, according to the research firm LMC Automotive, automakers are focused on the life cycle of EV batteries.

Tesla, which recycles batteries from its vehicles, addresses the issue on its website, saying, “none of our scrapped lithium-ion batteries go to landfilling, and 100% are recycled.” GM is working with Canada-based Li-Cycle to recycle scrap material from the manufacturing of Ultium battery cells.

Ford’s deal with Redwood Materials could be a benefit for both companies as the number of EVs continues to grow. Ford and its battery manufacturing partner SK Innovations will secure a steady and potentially increasing supply of critical materials such as lithium, nickel, and copper essential to manufacturing EV battery packs. Redwood Materials is receiving battery packs that will be recycled, with the vital elements, then shipped back to Ford to be reused in future EVs.

“We’re building and deploying around a little over 2.000 batteries onto the roads in America, every single day,” said JB Straubel, founder and CEO of Redwood Materials. “We need to be at least planning to figure out how we can very efficiently and sustainably recycle and disassemble a similar number of batteries,” he added.

Initially, Redwood will recycle scrap material from Ford at its facilities in Carson City, Nevada. Like Ford and SK Innovation add plants, Redwood Materials will build new recycling centers closer to the battery manufacturing plants.

EV battery recycling has not received attention in the U.S in large part because the number of electric vehicles which reach the end of their lives remains relatively small. That will change over the next ten years as the industry ramps up EV production.  

An auto industry consulting firm AlixPartners says that battery production investments will make up a quarter of the $330 billion being spent developing and building electric vehicles from 2021 through 2025.   Ford has committed to spending $22 billion through 2025 developing EVs, including the F-150 Lightning, and the first deliveries of the all-electric pickup truck are scheduled for early next year.

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