Dane Hardware (right), Ford Design and Release Engineer, and Mary Fredrick, Ford Battery Validation Engineer, measure the voltage of a battery with a digital multimeter at the Ford Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park, Michigan.
ford works with the battery recycling start-up Redwood Materials to reuse the raw materials from EV battery packs.
The agreement, which initially begins with recycling scrap from battery manufacturing, is the latest indication that automakers are taking steps to control the supply and cost of raw materials required to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles receive.
“It will help us reduce our reliance on importing many of the materials we use today in building the batteries, and then it will reduce the depletion of raw materials, which will be incredibly important in the future when we start.” to scale, “said Lisa Drake, Ford’s chief operating officer.” Creating this domestic supply chain is really an important step in making electric vehicles more affordable and accessible to all. “
With electric vehicle sales in the US expected to grow from an estimated 350,000 cars in 2021 to over a million annually by 2025, according to research firm LMC Automotive, automakers are increasingly focusing on the life cycle of electric vehicle batteries.
Tesla, which recycles batteries from its vehicles, addresses the problem on its website and says, “None of our discarded lithium-ion batteries end up in landfills and are 100% recycled.” GM works with Li-Cycle of Canada to remove scrap from manufacturing. to recycle Ultium battery cells.
Ford’s deal with Redwood Materials could benefit both companies as the number of electric vehicles continues to grow. Ford and its battery manufacturing partner SK Innovations will ensure a steady and potentially growing supply of key materials such as lithium, nickel and copper, which are important for the manufacture of EV battery packs. Redwood Materials will receive recycled battery packs, with the key elements then being returned to Ford for reuse in future electric vehicles.
“We build and put around 2,000 batteries on the streets in America every day,” said JB Straubel, founder and CEO of Redwood Materials. “We must at least plan how we can recycle and dismantle a similar number of batteries very efficiently and sustainably.”
Initially, Redwood will recycle waste it receives from Ford at its Carson City, Nevada facilities. Over time, as Ford and SK Innovation add new plants, it is possible that Redwood Materials will build new recycling centers closer to the battery factories.
On paper, Ford’s battery recycling plan makes sense. However, to ensure there is a continuous loop, Ford needs to keep track of what happens to its electric vehicles long after the sale. A big job as vehicles usually have two or three owners before they reach the end of their lifespan and if that happens the electric vehicle will likely end up in a junkyard. The answer could be that automakers need to track EV batteries.
“It is definitely possible for the automaker to protect this battery for its entire life and bring it to the recycling center,” said Sam Jaffe, Managing Director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors.
Jaffe, who follows the EV battery market, says recycling is coming to Europe because of the legal obligation for automakers to guarantee that the battery is recycled. “The batteries go to the scrapyards, the automaker picks them up and takes them to centralization and then to recycling,” he said. The push to increase recycling in the EU is one of the reasons Volkswagen and Peugeot have introduced small recycling operations on the continent.
At this point in time, Ford has not yet put in place a final plan to ensure that battery packs are recycled at the end of their life, but Drake admits that the financial benefit of recycling batteries is significant. “If we can regain this value and not have to reduce it again and have a certain security of supply domestically, that is incredibly valuable for us,” she said during a briefing on the announcement of the partnership.
In the United States, recycling of EV batteries has, in large part, not received significant attention because the number of end-of-life electric vehicles remains relatively small. That will change in the next 10 years when the industry ramped up electric car production.
AlixPartners, an automotive consultancy, says investments in battery production will account for nearly a quarter of the $ 330 billion spent on developing and building electric vehicles from 2021 to 2025. Ford is committed to spending $ 22 billion on developing electric vehicles, including the F-150 Blitz, by 2025. The first deliveries of the fully electric pickup are planned for the beginning of next year.
Ford is among several companies that have invested in Redwood Materials, which raised more than $ 800 million in three funding rounds. According to Straubel, the demand for raw materials will continue to rise, making recycling instead of mining a smart move for car manufacturers.
“It can reduce the need to import more of these materials from overseas and can reduce the need for and pressures on mining expansion,” he said.
– CNBCs Meghan Shipowner contributed to this report