Toyota teams up with Tesla co-founder to recycle batteries from its electric cars


Toyota Motor Corp. is partnering with Redwood Materials Inc., a battery recycling company created by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, to collect and reuse batteries from its electric cars.

With this partnership, Toyota relies on the know-how of Redwood Materials to establish an efficient and safe procedure for reusing, recycling and recovering the batteries of its end-of-life vehicles. For Redwood Materials it is all about creating a circular supply chain for electric cars and hybrids to make them more durable and cleaner.

Toyota partners with Redwood to recycle batteries from older models

Since Toyota has only recently started using lithium-ion batteries in its plug-in vehicles, Redwood Materials will primarily recycle nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries over the next few years. Efforts will mainly focus on old models released more than twenty years ago, such as the Prius et other hybrid-electric vehicles including Lexus models of the brand.

Redwood Materials employees processing a used battery from a Toyota Prius

Redwood Materials employees processing a used battery from a Toyota Prius

Otherwise, recycling was part of Toyota policy even before the European Commission imposed the mandatory recycling of batteries in 2006. The Japanese firm at the time recycled 91% of its hybrid batteries by encouraging its dealers to send back old batteries to receive new ones.

Aiming for 100% recycling, the company had even extended its battery recycling agreements with its two partners: the French company Société Nouvelle d’Affinage des Métaux (SNAM) and Umicore NV, a leading Belgian company in circular materials technology. These two companies were at the time responsible throughout Europe for the collection and responsible recycling of nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and worked with other automotive giants like Peugeot, BMW and Volkswagen.

» According to European legislation, at least 85% of the vehicle must be recyclable and 95% recoverable. But we go further by simplifying and streamlining the process as much as possible. Through initiatives such as part marking and close active cooperation with specialist partners, we are innovating to further improve recycling methods for tomorrow’s vehicles. «

The company Toyota on its recycling policy

A new recycling plant could open in North Carolina

Redwood Materials does not hide its ambitions and plans to manufacture its own cathodes and anodes with recycled materials in order to supply car manufacturers. A new recycling plant may open in North Carolina, near Toyota’s battery manufacturing plant. Redwood Material also announced its partnership with Ford with whom she undertakes the same objective, namely: the recycling and upgrading of electric batteries.

Redwood Materials is working to quickly expand its collection to recover precious metals and elements that can in turn be reused to make new batteries. Unlike gasoline, these materials are infinitely recyclable.
Redwood Materials is working to quickly expand its collection to recover precious metals and elements that can in turn be reused to make new batteries. Unlike gasoline, these materials are infinitely recyclable.

For the moment it is still a modest company, with a consumption of only 6 GWh of used batteries, but it plans to rapidly develop its activities to be able to supply enough anodes and cathodes for 100 GWh of new batteries by 2025. That might be enough to power a million vehicles, each equipped with a large 100 kWh battery pack. Even more ambitious is its goal of achieving production of 500 GWh by 2030. The company thus hopes to respond to new environmental challenges and to be part of a more responsible economy aimed at localizing the supply chain network.