Redwood Materials and Toyota are joining forces to turn 20-year-old Prius vehicles into new EV batteries. RM is a battery recycling startup run by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.
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Toyota will also source cathode active materials and anode copper foil from RM for its upcoming $14 billion North Carolina battery manufacturing plant. Together, these two components account for the majority of the cost of a battery cell and yet are manufactured entirely overseas. They’re then imported to America for final battery cell assembly.
RM is now focused on manufacturing the cathode active materials and anode copper foil in the U.S. For Toyota’s products, RM is targeting a minimum of 20% recycled nickel, 20% recycled lithium, and 50% recycled cobalt, in the cathode and 100% recycled copper in the anode copper foil.
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The first Prius, model NHW10 went on sale on December 10, 1997 in Japan. It was the world’s first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid. By 2000, over 37,000 Prius vehicles were produced. The Prius NHW11was sold in the U.S. in 2000. By 2011, Prius sales in the U.S. reached one million. As of September 2022, the Prius ranked as the world’s best-selling hybrid car with 5 million sold. In 2023, many Prius vehicles are reaching the end of their life cycle. RM will take the old batteries from these hybrids and recycle the materials for future EV batteries.
Toyota expects to recycle, re-manufacture and repurpose almost 5 million Prius vehicles. The automaker’s goal is to create a circular supply chain, optimizing logistics so that metals can be reintroduced in new EVs. Toyota aims to create a closed-loop battery ecosystem.