What Happens to Used Batteries?
Think, for a minute, about how much we rely on batteries. Our lives are powered by them: without batteries, we wouldn’t have cell phones, laptops, cordless power tools, electric toothbrushes, wireless headphones, and all the things that make our lives so convenient. But batteries are energy-intensive to make, and contain critical minerals; what happens to them when we dispose of or upgrade our devices?
Redwood Materials Inc., a battery component manufacturer, formed a strategic recycling deal with Volkswagen of America for Volkswagen and Audi electric battery packs, with the vision of creating a circular battery supply chain. The idea is to drive down the environmental footprint and cost of lithium-ion batteries over time – and thereby reduce the price and environmental footprint of the vehicles they power. And, starting on Earth Day, the company start to offer consumers a convenient way to recycle used lithium-ion batteries at participating Volkswagen dealers.
Turning Laptop Batteries Into EV Batteries
How does it work? The dealerships will offer Redwood bins that allow easy and safe drop-off of rechargeable batteries and consumer devices – including cell phones, laptops, tablets, cordless power tools, electric toothbrushes, wireless headphones, and old vacuum batteries. Redwood then picks up the batteries to recycle them for future use. According to Redwood, its technology can recover more than 95 percent of the critical minerals from batteries, which can then be incorporated into battery packs for new electric vehicles and energy storage products.
While the initiative with Volkswagen is a small start, recycling programs like this could over time help reduce battery costs – as well as the need to mine and ship expensive and volatile raw materials. Redwood’s already receives the majority of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries recycled in North America today; it specializes in recycling, refining, and remanufacturing those recycled batteries into critical materials that can be used in new battery packs.
Enough Material for 5 Million Electric Vehicles
As its collection and recycling efforts expand, Redwood plans to ramp up production of anode and cathode components in the US to 100 GWh annually by 2025, and 500 GWh annually by 2030. That’s enough to produce more than five million electric vehicles a year. Many of the critical minerals produced from the program will be used in Volkswagen group electric vehicles, many of which are produced in North America.
“Volkswagen’s goal is to provide more accessible and more sustainable electric mobility for American drivers,” said Andrew Savvas, Volkswagen North America’s Executive Vice President, ad Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. “By engaging our dealers, Volkswagen is providing access for consumers to contribute to sustainable mobility.”
The recycling partnership between Volkswagen and Redwood will launch at 14 dealerships on Earth Day in 2022, and additional dealerships will be added through the year.