A co-founder and former CTO of Tesla, JB Straubel was voted in as a new member of the Tesla board in May of this year.

Straubel left the company in 2019 to start his battery recycling company, Redwood Materials. There has been talk that Straubel would provide a steady hand on the board given Elon Musk’s volatile nature.

JB Straubel isn’t prone to self-promotion, or even progress reports. His personal Twitter account, and the one dedicated to his startup, Redwood Materials, have never even tweeted. Pretty much the opposite of Elon Musk.

Straubel left Tesla to run Redwood Materials full-time in 2019, and several former Tesla employees have joined him there.
Extracting needed materials from nature, through mining and other processes, is costly and difficult, and production is lagging far behind expected demand.

Straubel’s company, Redwood Materials, is taking a different tack, quietly aiming to build the biggest battery recycling operation in the USA. He is betting that he can perfect a fast and efficient way of collecting and repurposing those materials.

JB Straubel believes that they can reach half the price of mined materials within 10 years.
Redwood Materials has attained a $2 billion loan commitment from the Department of Energy, the agency announced in February of this year via its loan programs office.

The battery-recycling startup will use the funding to build and expand its battery recycling facility outside of Reno, Nevada. The facility takes end-of-life electric batteries, processes these and churns out raw materials and products that are used to make new EV battery cells.
The critical materials that go into these batteries (cobalt, nickel, copper, lithium and more) don’t degrade in their usage. They can be used hundreds and thousands of times and the economic benefit of that becomes really significant, not to mention the environmental benefit.

To understand the magnitude of the battery issue, one only needs to reach into their pocket or purse and pull out their smartphone.

Now multiply that by billions. That’s the amount of e-waste that the world has to deal with once those electronics live out their life cycle and have to be disposed of. And that’s just smartphones. When it comes to personal electronics alone, you’re also talking tablets, laptops, electric shavers, power tools — the list goes on and on for products that use batteries.
Straubel cited several reasons for the decision to base the company in Northern Nevada. One is proximity to the oldest and largest EV market in the world: California.

Shrinking the distance for recycling as well as supplying recycled minerals for batteries is especially important when it comes to reducing the supply chain’s carbon footprint. In some cases, the minerals can travel tens of thousands of miles, which can include trips from South American mines all the way to China and Japan before they finally reach the United States.

Another reason Straubel cited for basing his company in Northern Nevada is familiarity. Straubel became keenly aware of how things work in Nevada while he was helping set up the Gigafactory — the tax climate, the process surrounding the permitting and construction of a new facility, workforce development, as well as the key players in the state. Straubel liked what he saw.

“It’s a very business-friendly climate politically and economically and there’s generally more space to grow,” Straubel said. “You could also build a company a bit faster and do so without some of the constraints … you have in California or other places.”
Ford announced that it was teaming up with Redwood Materials to create a battery recycling and domestic battery supply chain for electric vehicles back in September 2021.

Redwood Materials also has contracts to recycle batteries for Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo and Tesla.