The person who made Tesla & Gigafactory is starting again with EV battery recycling (WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has published the first ever interview with a JB Strauble, the founder of Tesla and architect of the first ever in-depth Gigafactory in Nevada, on a new venture to recycle lithium ion batteries at scale.

JB is now CEO of Redwood Materials, based in Carson City, Nevada, USA, and is seeking to build the biggest lithium ion battery recycling facility in the USA, shift the dynamics of raw material supply and demand, and offer a solution to the future increasing volumes of scrap and spent electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

The WSJ interview features input comment from Simon Moores, Managing Director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, and potential size of this market and the challenge facing a new wave of battery recycling players.

“I’m looking into the future and seeing this freight train coming at us.” JB Straubel of Redwood Materials said in the interview.

You can read the WSJ interview here.

JB Straubel and a small team at Tesla were the architects of the world’s first super-sized lithium ion battery plant, the Tesla Gigafactory 1, sparking a global battery arms race, a term coined by Benchmark.

Simon Moores, MD, Benchmark explained further:

“Taking an average lithium ion battery scrap rate of 10% means we could have as much as 80GWh of scrap lithium ion batteries to recycle by 2025. This is the same size as the world’s entire lithium ion battery market in 2017.

That equates to:

  • 64,000 tonnes lithium chemical
  • 96,000 tonnes graphite anode
  • 45,000 tonnes nickel
  • 18,000 tonnes cobalt
  • 22,000 tonnes manganese

The reality is that these numbers are conservative as the scrap rate at these new battery gigafactories / megafactories vary wildly up to 40% right now as the industry gets to grips with manufacturing lithium ion cells at a scale that has never been done before.

All of the 158 lithium ion battery megafactories in the pipeline, according to latest Benchmark data, are new, huge facilities that will suffer the same teething problems as the ones build in 2015.

Its important to understand that 5 years ago, in 2015, the lithium ion battery cell market was 55GWh. This year we are expecting a market exceeding 210GWh in size. Five years from now we are looking at least another four-x jump to the 800GWh region.

These huge potential volumes of scrap cells and offcuts from these battery megafactories is the first major problem to solve for battery recyclers.

This does not even take into account the EVs that are coming to the end of the useful life. That’s a separate challenge.

The challenge for lithium ion battery recyclers is clear:

  • a) deal with mountain of waste cells coming your way
  • b) re-process and sell
  • c) master the chemical processing to make battery grade material.

Business models will likely revolve around these three pillars and we are going to need an army of battery recyclers to face this challenge.”

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