JB Straubel’s Redwood Materials will supply remanufactured battery cathode material to Panasonic, beginning in 2025, for a new factory the Japanese battery-maker is currently building in Kansas. Panasonic’s $4-billion factory, which is said to be larger than Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory, is expected to begin production of 2170-format cylindrical cells by March 2025.
Spurred by the Inflation Reduction Act, battery-makers are scrambling to develop North American sources of key battery materials, including nickel, cobalt and lithium. Part of the demand is expected to be met by recycling, which could reduce the need for new mines.
“The IRA just accelerated this entire transition” of the battery supply chain, Redwood Materials Chief Executive JB Straubel told Reuters.
Redwood Materials already has a partnership with Panasonic. Redwood recycles scrap from Panasonic’s battery production line at Tesla’s Gigafactory, and supplies materials such as cobalt, nickel and lithium back to Panasonic. Soon, Redwood will also begin supplying Panasonic with copper foil produced from recycled materials.
Redwood also recycles batteries from consumer electronics. Annual volume has reached 10 GWh of battery material, a figure that Straubel says is “increasing daily.”
Initially, the cathode materials supplied to Panasonic at the Kansas factory will contain about 30% recycled lithium and nickel and 100% recycled cobalt, Redwood founder and CEO JB Straubel told TechCrunch. That percentage will increase as more used batteries enter the recycling chain.
Redwood has major expansion plans—the company is investing “several billion dollars” in its own new factory, where it aims to be producing 100 GWh worth of cathode material per year—enough for 1 million EVs—by 2025.
Straubel believes that recycling will someday provide almost all the materials needed to produce batteries, bringing the percentage of virgin material required down almost to zero. “It will take a while for the industry as a whole to have enough material in circulation to do that,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re a long way away from that for every element. But it can happen much sooner with things like cobalt.”