Jun 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Redwood Materials jump-starts Energy Department's battery push with big hiring plans

Illustration of the recycle symbol made out of dollar bills
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Battery recycling startup Redwood Materials is amping up expansion plans, including adding more than 500 new manufacturing jobs in Nevada, as the United States gets serious about supporting a shift to electric vehicles.

Why it matters: The news coincides with an event being hosted today by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to dive into the DOE's newly released blueprint for the lithium battery supply chain.

  • Most of the rare earth minerals needed for lithium-ion batteries are currently sourced in China.
  • The White House is pledging to spur more U.S. battery manufacturing and sustainable mining — both domestically and abroad.
  • It's part of a broader initiative to improve industrial supply chains that have faced disruptions and risks, like semiconductors and pharmaceutical ingredients.

The big picture: The electric vehicle era faces a potential bottleneck because of a shortage of batteries and raw materials.

What's happening: Redwood Materials, founded by former Tesla battery chief JB Straubel, is developing a closed-loop battery supply chain that would salvage recycled lithium, nickel and cobalt from other cars, rather than mining them.

  • His vision is a long way off — there aren't nearly enough EVs on the road yet — but the company is ramping up the recycling of other electronic goods.

What's new: Redwood plans to invest "hundreds of millions" of dollars to expand its operations over the next couple of years, according to a spokesperson.

  • It will nearly quadruple its manufacturing space — to 550,000 square feet — in Carson City, Nevada, and it recently purchased 100 acres nears Tesla's gigafactory in Reno to support continued growth.
  • The company, which currently employs 130 people, also plans to add 500 new jobs.

What they're saying: “America has a clear opportunity to build back our domestic supply chain and manufacturing sectors, so we can capture the full benefits of an emerging $23 trillion global clean energy economy," Granholm said in a statement.

  • "Private sector investment like this is a sign that we can’t slow down. The American Jobs Plan will unlock massive opportunities for U.S. businesses as it spurs innovation and demand for technologies — like vehicle batteries and battery storage —c reating clean energy jobs for all.”
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