We are seeing the rise of EVs (electric vehicles). In 2022 alone, we saw electric car sales soar by 62% compared with 2021, and IDTechEx estimates by yearend 2023 will see global sales rise by another 16%. But many are concerned about the sustainability of those darn batteries. But don’t let all the negative hype concern you. The good news is there is a lot of hard work being done surrounding battery recycling even right here in South Carolina.
Redwood Materials takes an interesting approach to batteries, taking the batteries, recycling, and refining them down into mixed metal concentrates that the company then turns into materials for the anode and the cathode. The hard reality here is that this year alone 150 million cellphones will be thrown away—our make, take, waste society—and put into landfills, but those batteries and other batteries like those in EVs, toothbrushes, and so much more can be reduced and reused.
“The cathode is the most expensive part of the battery, so by reducing the cost of the cathode, we are actually ultimately able to reduce the cost of the battery pack, and then reduce the cost of the electric vehicle,” says Morgan Crapps, director of public affairs & government relations, Redwood Materials.
By reducing the cost, the company can then make the vehicles more accessible for more people. The company already has a plant in Reno, Nev., where it is doing all of these steps of this process: recycling, refining, and then remanufacturing.
But there’s more to this complex story. The company quickly realized it needed a plant closer to where a lot of the battery activity has been happening along the battery belt, which is a strip that runs from Michigan down into Georgia where a lot of the automakers and battery cell manufacturers are locating facilities.
To address this, last year, the company announced its second battery materials campus outside of Charleston, S.C., which is something I covered here on this blog. This campus will also be a closed loop campus, meaning it will do all steps of the process including recycling, refining, and then remanufacturing.
Crapps says the company will be investing about $3.5 billion in this campus in the next decade and will hire on about 1500 people.
All in all, we see this company is taking a new approach to helping make EV production much more responsible and sustainable. Justin Butera, automotive partnerships, Redwood Materials, says rather than relying on new materials, everything we are doing has offset the need for new materials as much as possible.
“Cars are the most recyclable item that there is in the U.S. today at an extreme volume,” he explains.
As we move forward, there will be new opportunities to create new technologies and innovations in a way that is more sustainable and responsible, if only we are willing to come up with the ideas to get us there. With all this in mind, how will you continue to innovate while also being responsible to the world that we live in today? The time is now to think outside the box and be as innovative as possible for a more sustainable and resilient tomorrow.
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