Great news for anyone hoping to buy an electric car in the future and for anyone who cares about our planet: A company that recycles lithium-ion batteries recently announced that after a yearlong pilot program, it was able to recover important metals from used batteries at an incredible rate of more than 95%.
Tesla has been slowly moving the world away from transport powered by dirty energy sources and toward electric vehicles. EVs are much less destructive to our planet than gas-powered cars, which release around 5 tons of planet-warming gases per year.
However, one issue with EVs is that their batteries rely on lithium, a chemical that has to be extracted from the Earth via mining. This mining process uses excessive amounts of water and is highly destructive to the surrounding environment.
Though its effects are not as bad as the effects of mining for dirty energy sources like oil and coal, they must be meaningfully addressed in order for EVs to truly be considered environmentally friendly.
That’s why Straubel moved on from the car company to start Redwood Materials.
The problem facing lithium recycling in the past was not that it couldn’t be done. It’s that the infrastructure was not yet in place for it to be economically viable for profit-driven companies. Previously, there have not been enough used lithium-ion batteries recycled on an industrial scale. But as EVs become more and more popular, that is changing quickly.
And if the preliminary results are any indication, Straubel’s Redwood Materials is more than ready to occupy that space.
For the past year, Redwood Materials has been collecting old EV battery packs from automakers such as Volvo, Ford, and Audi. In total, it collected 1,268 battery packs and recovered the lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper contained within at a whopping rate of above 95% efficiency.
As Electrek points out, this is even better when you consider that the recycling efficiency rate of gasoline is 0%.
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