Ford Is Going to Start Recycling Its Electric Vehicle Batteries

With plans to erect a new battery supply chain in the US.
Brad Bergan
Ford's 2021 Mustang Mach-E.Gold Pony / Wikimedia

The auto industry is taking major strides toward sustainable vehicles.

This is why Ford is moving forward with plans to recycle its EV batteries, after investing $50 million in an ex-Tesla CTO's startup, which will organize Ford's EV battery recycling process, according to two press releases from Redwood Materials and Ford Motor Co.

Together, the companies aim to establish a battery supply chain in the U.S., in line with President Biden's aims to re-modernize the country's infrastructure for the 21st century.

Strap in.

Ford and Redwood's partnership could cut down on mining

JB Straubel's company (Redwood Materials) recently completed a $700 million funding round, so it comes as no surprise that Ford is not the firm's first customer. Redwood already recycles batteries from Nissan, an e-bike battery company called Specialized, and scrap from Panasonic and Tesla, specifically from the initial Gigafactory at Reno, Nevada. Straubel's company is headquartered south of the factory, in Carson City. But with Ford, Redwood is taking on an entirely different level of recycling, aiming for greater integration than a mere partner and consult in recycling initiatives.

Redwood Materials and the Detroit-based automaker will finalize plans to process scrap metal, perfect methods of rejuvenating worn-down batteries without sacrificing capacity, help Ford forge new batteries from salvaged lithium, copper, nickel, copper, and much more. The two companies didn't dive into concrete explanations, but the general aim is for the pair of firms to build a "circular" or "closed-loop" system that recycles the material of lithium-ion batteries, enabling their continued use instead of wasteful disposal. This might also force the cost of EV batteries down while also easing Ford's reliance on imported materials. One day, it might even reduce the need for mining, which is generally harmful to the planet's ecosystem.

Ford and GM eye the same prize

"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 U.S. materials supply chain," said Ford's North America COO Lisa Drake, in the press release. "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." Redwood's new Ford deal could also bring the former to new prominence. Ford is very passionate about electric vehicles, just like its competitors, with the Mustang Mach-E released earlier in 2021, and the all-electric variant of the automaker's F-150 slated for a 2022 release. "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 President and CEO Jim Farley of Ford, in the press release. "Our partnership with Redwood Materials will be critical to our plan to build electric vehicles at scale in America, at the lowest cost and with a zero-waste approach."

Ford also plans to release even more electric vehicles in the coming decade. To bolster the rollout of this new wave of electric vehicles, Ford is collaborating with South Korea's SK Innovation to build batteries domestically. But Ford's rivals have eyes on a similar prize. General Motors, which is undergoing a substantial transformation into an EV provider, recently selected Li-Cycle, a Canadian company, to recycle its scrap waste from batteries that GM is slated to manufacture with SK Innovation's rival, called LG Chem. According to its press release, Redwood thinks the industrial footprint of lithium-ion battery production needs to be reduced, made more affordable, and brought to a place more welcoming to consumers who've so far shied away from pivoting away from fossil fuels. Here's hoping it works.

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