This is where Tesla’s former CTO thinks battery recycling is heading

This is where Tesla’s former CTO thinks battery recycling is heading

This is where Tesla's former CTO thinks battery recycling is heading

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I think this whole new sustainable economy as we envision it, with everything electrified, just can’t work unless you have a closed loop for raw materials. There aren’t enough new raw materials to keep building and throwing away; it would be basically impossible.


Battery recycling is an intuitive solution to both of these problems, but tell me more about the technical challenge of pulling it off and how it would work.

It’s more complicated than I think a lot of people appreciate. There’s just a whole ton of chemistry, chemical engineering, and production engineering that needs to happen to make and refine all of the components that go into a battery. It’s not just a matter of sorting or managing garbage.

There’s a lot of room for innovation, and these things haven’t been optimized well, if at all in some cases. So that’s really the fun thing about being an engineer, where you can invent and innovate things that haven’t been done two, three, four times before.

But something that is not intuitive is the high level of metal reuse inside a battery. All these materials that we put in a battery and in an electric vehicle are not going anywhere. They are all still there. They don’t degrade, they aren’t compromised – 99% of these metals, or possibly more, can be reused over and over and over again. Literally hundreds, if not thousands of times.

I don’t believe we appropriately internalize how bad climate change is going to be.

JB Straubel

There won’t be many electric vehicles off the roads for long. How do you plan to manage this and deal with shortages in your supply of used batteries?

I really see our position as a sustainable battery materials company. One of our main objectives and goals is to look to the very long term and to ensure that we design the most efficient systems for the long term, where recycled material content constitutes the majority of the supply.

But in the meantime, we are taking a pragmatic view. We need to mix in a certain amount of virgin material – whatever we can get in the most environmentally friendly way – to increase the surge while we need to move away from fossil fuels.


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