In its first published sustainability report, Tesla outlined its development of a “unique battery recycling system”.
The company plans to set up shop at Gigafactory 1 located near Reno, Nevada, with the goal of recovering minerals required for new battery production, including copper, aluminum and steel, and the big boys, cobalt and lithium. By closing the loop and recycling its own materials, Tesla says it will “significant savings”. Let’s hope that projected savings ends up benefitting consumers in vehicle pricing.
Recycled Materials, Not Reused Batteries
It’s worth noting that Tesla’s report had some meat on its bones. Apparently, a company’s first sustainability report tends to be, shall we say, less than thorough. Trillium Asset Management, a respected financial firm that tracks corporate sustainability, gave Tesla a thumbs up for its rookie effort.
In contrast to resuscitating old batteries for use in its cars, Tesla has opted to invest in recycling materials to build new ones. This is a smart approach from a consumer standpoint. Nobody likes the idea of a refurbished battery in their car. Whether valid or not, second-life batteries have the reputation of being inferior to new ones.
Achieving the Goal
Tesla has yet to announce how they will achieve this closed loop. Striking a deal with Redwood Materials would seem the path of least resistance. JB Straubel, CTO of Tesla and also an investor in the company, cofounded Redwood Materials, but so far will not confirm a connection. As stated on Straubel’s bio on Tesla’s site, he “focuses on technical direction and engineering design including battery technology, power electronics, motors, software, firmware and controls.” So, you do the math.
Other carmakers also see the advantage of using a closed loop system. Volkswagen is reportedly building a facility in Salzgitter, Germany. Another player in the game for automakers to consider is Fortum out of Finland with a reported 80% recover rate of materials.
When you compare the size of Tesla with that of Volkswagen, its innovations and industry leadership are even that more impressive. Right down to recycling batteries