“We’re weaning our entire society off fossil fuels and carbon-dense — we can’t underestimate the scale of this challenge,” said Gavin Harper, a research fellow at the University of Birmingham in England who studies battery recycling. “The demand will absolutely be immense.”
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Despite all the optimism, this new company faces a formidable challenge: There will not be many batteries available for recycling for ten years or more. Tesla, the leader in electric cars, began selling cars back in 2008 and sold less than 100,000 vehicles annually as of 2017. There are many other options for recycling today, such as hybrids and consumer electronics. However, supply is limited and collection can prove difficult.
This has put recyclers in a difficult situation. Without risking losing ground to their competitors, recyclers must invest in workers, machinery, and plants. They should not invest too quickly as they might run out of money before old batteries reach their loading docks.
Eric Fredrickson, Call2Recycle’s managing director of operations, said that the nonprofit program assists recyclers in finding old batteries.
Businesses must also know how to locate, collect and disassemble battery components. They will need to be able to work with many junkyards, breakers, and non-profit organizations. It can be dangerous and complicated to separate batteries because they are susceptible to fire and are packaged differently from one model to the next.
Redwood is the most prominent of all the battery recycling businesses. JB Straubel, a former Tesla executive, founded the company and raised more than $1 million from investors. Redwood considers itself primarily an exporter of battery materials made from recycled or mined steel and has formed recycling partnerships with Ford Motor and Toyota, Volkswagen, Volkswagen, and Volvo. Redwood also recycles scrap left over a battery plant owned by Tesla and Panasonic near Reno in Nevada.
Redwood is building an 175-acre campus in a dusty area near the factory. The company recycles old batteries and makes new batteries. Redwood announced last week that it would spend at least $3.5 billion on another campus in South Carolina, in an area of the country that is fast becoming a center for battery and electric car production.
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