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September 22, 2021 11:15 AM, EDT

Ford, Redwood to Partner on Recycling EV Battery Materials

Ford The all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. (Emily Elconin/Bloomberg News)

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Redwood Materials Inc., the startup founded by Tesla alum J.B. Straubel, has formed a partnership with Ford Motor Co. to recycle and reuse key ingredients within the lithium-ion batteries that will power the automaker’s burgeoning fleet of electric vehicles.

The goal of the partnership, announced Sept. 22, is to create a closed loop for EV battery production within the U.S. Ford will supply Redwood with used electric car batteries as they become available, and Redwood will extract from them such key metals as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper, to be used to build more batteries. Ford in May announced a joint venture with South Korea’s SK Innovation to make batteries.

Recycling will give Ford and its joint venture a domestic supply of battery materials, most of which currently come from Africa, Australia, China and South America. It should also reduce both the cost and the environmental impact of making battery cells. Redwood will likely start by recycling scrap from battery production, before spent batteries become available in bulk. Ford has also invested $50 million in Redwood, which a $700 million capital raise this summer valued at about $3.7 billion.

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Ford CEO Jim Farley in May boosted spending on electric vehicles by one-third to $30 billion by 2025. The company’s electric Mustang Mach-E has begun outselling the gasoline version of the pony car and Ford just doubled factory capacity of the battery-powered F-150 Lightning pickup, which is set to go on sale next spring and already has more than 150,000 reservations from potential buyers, according to the automaker.

“We could sell our scrap to anybody, but that’s not the point — the point is to get it to someone who can turn it into material that we can then re-consume and keep it closed loop,” said Lisa Drake, Ford’s chief operating officer for North America. “If we can recapture that value and not have to mine again, and have some domestic supply security, that’s incredibly valuable for us.”

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