Amazon’s investment in Redwood Materials is one of a handful announced that stems from the e-commerce giant’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund. Amazon announced that it would commit to invest $2 billion in sustainable technologies and services that will help it reach its commitment to have net-zero carbon operations by 2040.
Redwood already has customers on both sides of the business, Straubel said, although Panasonic and now Amazon are the only two that have been publicly named. Redwood is recycling the scrap from Panasonic’s battery cell manufacturing operation at the Reno Gigafactory it operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. The company also has customers — that have yet to be named — on the consumer electronics side, Straubel said.
“We’re recycling and processing things as diverse as cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles,” he said. “So it’s a kind of an amazing diversity of small- to mid-range applications that today really struggle to find a good solution. The recycling rates of those materials in particular are really atrocious in the market.”
JB Straubel, the Tesla co-founder and former CTO, is often cast as the humble and pioneering engineer, the quiet one who toiled away in the background for 15 years on some of the company’s most important technologies. That characterization — which intensified as the hype and media attention on Tesla CEO Elon Musk grew — tells a half truth.
Straubel isn’t prone to self-promotion, or even progress reports. His personal Twitter account, nor the one dedicated to his startup, Redwood Materials, has ever even tweeted. And he does like toiling away on complex problems.
But his understated delivery obfuscates his ambitions and plans for Redwood Materials, the recycling startup that he co-founded in 2017. Straubel envisions and is actively working to make Redwood one of the world’s major battery recycling companies, with numerous facilities strategically scattered throughout the globe.
“We’ve already dug these metals out of the ground, we’ve put them in cells, they’re sitting there,” Mikolajczak said during the joint interview with Straubel at TC Sessions: Mobility. “And yeah, it’s a little difficult to handle cells, they process a little differently than a typical metal ore, right, but at the same time, we have a much higher concentration of the metals we need than a typical metal ore. So it makes total sense to go after recycling and to do it aggressively because there’s a lot of it, there’s a lot of batteries already out in the world.”