Toyota to recycle HEV batteries for BEVs
Agreement with Nevada firm will establish localised circular recycling of end-of-life HEV cells
The US arm of Japanese legacy manufacturer Toyota has signed an agreement with Nevada-based battery storage and recycling firm Redwood Materials for the latter to supply cathode active material (CAM) to the automaker, as well as for recycling end-of-life EV batteries.
Redwood will supply cathode active materials and anode copper foil, which the company calls “the two most critical battery components in the US”.
“Together, these two components account for the majority of the cost of a battery cell and yet are manufactured entirely overseas,” Redwood says.
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The recycling portion of the agreement is the culmination of a Redwood and Toyota commitment to create a “closed-loop solution for batteries” which the firms made in 2022. Redwood says that Toyota’s sourcing of its CAM and anode copper foil marks the beginning of second phase of last year’s agreement.
For Toyota’s products, Redwood is targeting a minimum of 20pc recycled nickel, 20pc recycled lithium, and 50pc recycled cobalt in the cathode and 100pc recycled copper in the anode copper foil, the firm says.
“We believe this represents the first time that an automaker is both recycling end-of-life hybrid electric vehicle batteries, like those used in the Toyota Prius, and then returning those recycled metals into that same automaker’s batteries for use in future electrified vehicles,” Redwood says.
Toyota will reuse recycled battery materials at its North Carolina manufacturing facility, which will begin making batteries for both BEVs and HEVs in 2025. The move to some extent represents Toyota hedging its bets by bolstering conventional battery production, rather than solely relying on recent highly publicised announcements about solid-state battery development.
“Toyota’s automotive battery recycling needs are expected to grow substantially in the coming years as more of its electrified vehicles, such as first-generation Prius models introduced more than 20 years ago, reach the end of their lifecycle,” the automaker says.
And Redwood’s facility in Carson City, NV, is opportunely situated for efficiently recycling a large chunk of this hybrid fleet, as Toyota says that a significant proportion of the end-of-life HEVs are in California.
The operation is expected to recycle nearly 5mn battery units, Toyota says, although the firm does not indicate if this is annual capacity or total over the facility’s lifespan.
Recent research from thinktank the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) calculates that the capacity of battery recycling projects that have been announced will is sufficient for EV scrappage levels expected into the next decade.
“Recycling plants announced as of September 2023 are included, sufficient capacity is available to recycle end-of-life batteries until 2044,” the ICCT says.
But the focus of Toyota and Redwood’s recycling project is a localised and efficient circular economy which seeks to minimise emissions and time between vehicle scrappage and re-use of battery materials. This level of localisation of recycling value chains was identified as lagging by an ICCT report in October.