Ex-Tesla exec Straubel aims to build world's top battery recycler
(This Oct 7 story corrects paragraph 4 to say 10,000 cars, not 100 cars)
From Paul Lienert
(Reuters) - Tesla co-founder J.B. Straubel wants to make his startup Redwood Materials the world's leading company for battery recycling and one of the largest companies for battery materials, he said at a technology conference on Wednesday.
Straubel plans to leverage two partnerships, one with Panasonic Corp <6752.T>, the Japanese battery maker that works with Tesla <TSLA.O> at the Gigafactory in Nevada, and one with the e-commerce giant weeks ago Amazon <AMZN was announced. O>.
Straubel says his top priority is "to have a significant impact on sustainability on an industrial scale," as the production of electric vehicles and batteries is about to explode.
Founded in early 2017, Redwood will be recycling more than 1 gigawatt-hour of battery waste from the gigafactory this year - enough to power more than 10,000 Tesla cars.
That's a fraction of the half a million vehicles Tesla will build this year. On the company's Battery Day in late September, CEO Elon Musk said he was considering recycling batteries to supplement supplies of raw materials from mining as Tesla escalates vehicle production.
According to Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America, Redwood's partnership with Panasonic began late last year with a pilot project to reclaim materials at Redwood's recycling facilities in nearby Carson City.
Mikolajczak, who was Tesla's leading battery technologist for six years, said, "People are underestimating what recycling can do for the electric vehicle industry. This could have a huge impact on raw material prices and production in the future."
Straubel's broader plan is to drastically reduce the mining of raw materials such as nickel, copper and cobalt over several decades by creating a circular or closed supply chain in which materials are recycled and recycled from end-of-life vehicle and grid storage batteries and from cells that were scrapped during manufacture.
In September, Redwood announced that it has received funding from Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund following an investment by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
"I am excited about the work we can do together," said Straubel about Amazon. "They have batteries in a lot of devices," from consumer electronics to data centers to future electric vehicles and drones.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; editing by David Gregorio)
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