US auto giant of the old guard, Ford Motor Company, has tipped $US50 million into Nevada-based battery outfit, Redwood Materials, as part of a joint effort to established a “closed loop” battery recycling and supply chain for electric vehicles.
Ford announced the investment this week as part of a $30 billion spend on electrification through to 2025, and as part of a shared goal with Redwood to make EVs more sustainable and cheaper, by driving down the cost of batteries.
The investment in Redwood also gives Ford an important ally in its transition away from the internation combustion engine car, in the form of Redwood founder and CEO JB Straubel, who made made his name as the co-founder and founding CTO of Tesla.
The two companies will collaborate to integrate battery recycling into Ford’s domestic battery strategy, which will in turn drive down costs, increase battery materials supply and reduce the carmaker’s reliance on imports and mining of raw materials.
Redwood’s recycling technology claims to be able to recover, on average, more than 95% of used battery elements like nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper, which it can then re-use to make anode copper foil and cathode active materials for future battery production.
In the longer-term, Ford and Redwood plan to establish a “best approach” for collecting and disassembling end-of-life batteries from Ford EVs, to use in the manufacture all-new batteries.
“Increasing our nation’s production of batteries and their materials through domestic recycling can serve as a key enabler to improve the environmental footprint of US manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, decrease cost and, in turn, drive up domestic adoption of electric vehicles,” said Straubel, in a statement on Wednesday.
“Redwood and Ford share an understanding that to truly make electric vehicles sustainable and affordable, we need to localise the existing complex and expensive supply chain network, create pathways for end-of-life vehicles, ramp lithium-ion recycling and increase battery production, all here in America.”
For Ford, the partnership with Redwood builds on the automaker’s previously announced plans to scale battery production through multiple BlueOvalSK plants in North America, starting in the mid-2020s.
BlueOvalSK is a joint venture that Ford and SK Innovation intend to form, subject to definitive agreements, regulatory approvals, and other conditions.
“We are designing our battery supply chain to create a fully closed-loop lifecycle to drive down the cost of electric vehicles via a reliable US materials supply chain,” said Lisa Drake, Ford’s North America chief operating officer.
“This approach will help ensure valuable materials in end-of-life products re-enter the supply chain and do not wind up in landfills, reducing our reliance on the existing commodities supply chain that will be quickly overwhelmed by industry demand.”
Just last week, Ford announced that it had begun pre-production of its long-awaited all-electric F-150 Lightning utility vehicle at the company’s new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan.
As The Driven has reported, the F-150 EV has already gained 150,000 reservations in the US since it was launched in May to greater excitement and anticipation than Tesla’s boxy-looking and now delayed Cybertruck.
“Ford is making electric vehicles more accessible and affordable through products like the all-electric F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E and E-Transit, and much more to come,” said Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO on Wednesday.
“Our partnership with Redwood Materials will be critical to our plan to build electric vehicles at scale in America, at the lowest possible cost and with a zero-waste approach.”