Volkswagen partners with Redwood Materials to recycle EV batteries

It will be many years before the battery packs in these ID.4s need recycling, but when that happens VW and Redwood will be ready.

Enlarge / It will be many years before the battery packs in these ID.4s need recycling, but when that happens VW and Redwood will be ready. (credit: Volkswagen)

Volkswagen is in the midst of a huge electrification effort, spurred on by a combination of dieselgate and stringent fleet emissions targets in Europe. Last week, the company broke ground on the first of six European battery factories and is actively looking at building one or more similar plants here in the US. If and when that happens, Volkswagen may well make those batteries using material recycled from older electric vehicle batteries, thanks to a new collaboration with Redwood Materials.

“Redwood Materials is a great partner to help us accelerate EV adoption in America. This collaboration allows us to move closer toward our goal of closing the loop for a circular EV economy, giving American consumers yet another reason to go electric,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of VW Group of America.

As we explored yesterday, the lithium-ion battery in an electric vehicle should see little loss of storage capacity over the course of a decade. But eventually, batteries will degrade to the point where it makes more sense to repurpose them as static storage (once they can only hold 60–70 percent of their original charge) or eventually recycle them.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #battery-recycling, #cars, #redwood-materials, #volkswagen-group

Ford, Volvo, and Redwood Materials start recycling EV batteries

Ford, Volvo, and Redwood Materials start recycling EV batteries

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

What happens to an electric vehicle’s big slab of batteries once it no longer holds a sufficient charge? On Thursday, Redwood Materials moved that conversation forward with an announcement that it has started its EV battery recycling program, with Ford and Volvo as partners.

US law requires an EV’s traction battery to maintain at least 70 percent of its original state of charge after eight years or 100,000 miles. Even older EVs—ones with proper thermal management for the battery pack—are showing resilience to battery degradation over time.

But eventually, a pack will no longer be suitable for propelling a car, at which point it can be given a second life as static storage. After the battery degrades enough, it’s time for recycling.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #battery-recycling, #cars, #electric-vehicle, #redwood-materials

The Station: The script for Elon Musk’s Loop drivers, Redwood snags $700M and a chat with Kodiak Robotics’ co-founder

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

In case you missed it, our scoop machine Mark Harris was at it again. This time, he found some interesting and entertaining documents related to Elon Musk’s underground Loop system in Las Vegas received via a Freedom of Information Act. Among the treasure is a “ride script” that instructs drivers for the Loop system to bypass passengers’ questions about how long they have been driving for the company, declare ignorance about crashes, and shut down conversations about Musk himself.

The takeaway: the script shows just how serious The Boring Company, which built and operates the system, is about controlling the public image of the new system, its technology and especially Musk.

Importantly, the documents confirm that Autopilot, the advanced driver assistance system in the Tesla vehicles used in the Loop system, must be disabled.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

This is a step outside the norm of what I usually think of when I think of micromobility (you’ll see what I did there in a second), but this week I wrote about a new in-shoe navigation system that helps the visually impaired walk around town.

Ashirase, as both the system and the name of the company is called, involves attaching a three-dimensional vibration device, including a motion sensor, inside a pair of shoes. This bit of hardware is connected to a smartphone app that someone with low vision can use to enter their destination. Vibrations in the front part of the shoe give the cue to walk straight, and vibrations on the left and right cue the user to make a left or right turn. The aim is to free up the hands while walking to use a cane and allow the walker to put more of their full attention on audio signals in the environment, thus making their commutes a bit more intuitive and their lives more independent.

It’s a really interesting bit of tech because it uses a similar stack to what we’re seeing in autonomous driving and advanced driver assistance systems. Which makes sense because that’s the founder’s background. Wataru Chino worked in Honda’s EV motor control and automated driving systems departments since 2009. His startup is a product of Honda’s incubator, Ignition, that features original technology, ideas, and designs of Honda associates with the goal of solving social issues and going beyond the existing Honda business.

Accessibility: We love to see it

Cabify recently announced a new feature that makes its rideshare service more accessible to the elderly, people with partial visual impairment and people with cognitive disabilities. The feature provides voice notifications to alert the user when a driver is on their way or has just arrived, when the ride starts, when a stop has been reached, when a message has come into the app’s chat, etc.

The notification makes use of a text-to-speech functionality that Android and iOS phones have.

“Apple and Google operating systems allow us to pronounce sentences with the system’s voice but we have developed the text and established the situations where we inform and draw the user’s attention,” a Cabify spokesperson told me.

Lime’s push for world domination

And we’re back with the latest on Lime’s plans to take over the world, one electric scooter at a time. The micromobility goliath has announced an integration with the Moovit transit planning app. From Monday onwards, Moovit users in 117 cities across 20 countries will see Lime’s electric scooters, bikes and mopeds show up as an option for travel, either as the whole journey or as part of a multi-modal journey. This news follows a trend we’re seeing as cities start to see micromobility companies as less of a public nuisance and more of a public solution, particularly for first- and last-mile travel. Integrating with Moovit, an app that’s solely focused on public transportation, is a move that helps in the long run creating a broader transportation ecosystem.

New whips

Espin released its limited edition fixie style e-bike called the Aero. It’s just the thing for Seattle hipsters, particularly ones with a stick-and-poke bike tattoo. The bike frame is just as sleek as you’d expect from a single gear bike, all clean lines and comes in either a forest green or a smoke gray. The Aero can reach top speeds of 20 mph and can hit 30 miles on a single charge. Best of all, it doesn’t break the bank at $1,399.

Splach, which normally makes e-scooters and e-bikes, has come out with something it’s calling the Transformer. I truly don’t know how to categorize it but it looks like a lot of fun to ride. The company is calling the light-duty e-vehicle a “mini-moto Robust scooter specialized for rugged terrains.” It looks like a dirt bike has been sized way down and given a long neck so you can stand on it and still steer it. It also looks like it would indeed do well on rugged terrains, based on videos of people shredding down dirt paths. Splach used Indiegogo to fund the thing, and said it reached its goal within an hour.

Deal of the week

money the station

Get ready to hear a lot more about supply chain constraints around batteries with virtually every automaker shouting out pledges to shift their entire portfolio away from internal combustion engines and towards electric powertrains.

Cell producers need access to the raw materials like nickel that are needed to make batteries. Mining those materials is the most common means, but that isn’t sustainable (and I’m not just talking about the environmental toll). JB Straubel, who is best known as the former Tesla co-founder and longtime CTO, is tackling the supply chain issue through his startup Redwood Materials. The battery recycling company is aiming to create a circular supply chain. This closed-loop system, Straubel says, will be essential if the world’s battery cell producers hope to have the supply needed for consumer electronics and the coming wave of electric vehicles.

High-profile investors like Amazon, funds managed by T. Rowe and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Ventures fund recognize the opportunity and have injected $700M in fresh capital into Redwood Materials. This is comically large compared to the startup’s last raise of $40 million. And sources tell me that this pushes Redwood Material’s valuation to $3.7 billion.

I interviewed Straubel about the raise and what struck me was how aggressively he wants to scale; he is treating this issue as if there is no time to lose — and he’s not wrong.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Clarios, the maker of low-voltage vehicle batteries, postponed its IPO, citing market volatility, Bloomberg reported. the Milwaukee area-based company backed by Brookfield Asset Management had filed to raise $1.7 billion by offering 88.1 million shares at a price range of $17 to $21.

Fisker, the electric vehicle startup turned publicly traded company via a SPAC, has turned investor to support EV charging company Allego. Fisker said it is investing $10 million in private-investment-in-public equity (PIPE) funding for the merger of Allego and special purpose acquisition company Spartan Acquisition Corp III. The merger puts Allego at a pro forma equity value of $3.14 billion.

Flock, which went from providing drone insurance to commercial vehicle insurance, raised $17 million in a Series A funding led by Social Capital, the investment vehicle run by Chamath Palihapitiya, best known as a SPAC investor and chairman of Virgin Galactic. Flock’s existing investors Anthemis and Dig Ventures also participated. This round brings Flock’s total funding to $22 million. Justin Saslaw (Social Capital’s fintech partner) joins Flock’s board of directors, as does Ross Mason (founder of Dig Ventures and MuleSoft).

HappyFresh, the on-demand grocery app based in Indonesia, raised $65 million in a Series D round led by Naver Financial Corporation and Gafina B.V., with participation from STIC, LB and Mirae Asset Indonesia and Singapore. It also included returning investors Mirae-Asset Naver Asia Growth Fund and Z Venture Capital. The company’s previous round of funding was a $20 million Series C announced in April 2019.

Lordstown Motors got a lifeline from a hedge fund managed by investment firm Yorkville Advisors about five weeks after the automaker issued a warning that it might not have enough funds to bring its electric pickup truck to market. The hedge fund agreed to buy $400 million worth of shares over a three-year period, according to a regulatory filing.

Merqueo, the on-demand delivery service that operates in Latin America, raised $50 million in a Series C round of funding co-led by IDC Ventures, Digital Bridge and IDB Invest. MGM Innova Group, Celtic House Venture Partners, Palm Drive Capital and previous shareholders also participated. The financing brings the Bogota, Colombia-based startup’s total raised to $85 million since its 2017 inception.

Niron Magnetics, a company developing permanent magnets free of rare earths, raised $21.3 million in new financing from the Volvo Cars Tech Fund and Volta Energy Technologies, which joined existing investors Anzu Partners and the University of Minnesota. Niron will use the funding to build its pilot production facility in Minnesota.

Onto, the EV car subscription company raised $175 million in a combined equity and debt Series B round. The equity piece was led by Swedish VC Alfvén & Didrikson. British investment company Pollen Street Capital provided the senior-secured asset-backed debt facility. The company, which has raised a total of $245 million, says it plans to double its fleet size every three to six months and that any new vehicles will be used as collateral. Onto did not disclose how much of the round came from equity versus debt.

Zūm, a student transportation startup, was awarded a five-year $150 million contract to modernize San Francisco Unified School District transport service throughout the district. Zūm, which already operates its rideshare-meets-bus service in Oakland, much of Southern California, Seattle, Chicago and Dallas, will be responsible for handling day-to-day operations, transporting 3,500 students across 150 school campuses starting this fall semester.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear things. But I’m not selfish. Let me share!

You might have missed my article late Friday about Argo AI landing a permit in California that will allow the company to give people free rides in its self-driving vehicles on the state’s public roads.

Tl;dr: The California Public Utilities Commission issued Argo the so-called Drivered AV pilot permit, which is part of the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot. This puts Argo in a small and growing group of companies seeking to expand beyond traditional AV testing — a signal that the industry, or at least some companies, are preparing for commercial operations.

Regulatory hurdles remain and don’t expect Argo to be offering and charging for “driverless” rides anytime soon. But progress is being made and I would expect the company to secure the next permit — in a long line of them — later this year.

Argo has never officially indicated what city it is targeting for a robotaxi service in California. The company has been testing its autonomous vehicle technology in Ford vehicles around Palo Alto since 2019. Today, the company’s test fleet in California is about one dozen self-driving test vehicles. It also has autonomous test vehicles in Miami, Austin, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh and Detroit. (In July, Argo and Ford announced plans to launch at least 1,000 self-driving vehicles on Lyft’s ride-hailing network in a number of cities over the next five years, starting with Miami and Austin.)

I’m hearing from some sources familiar with Argo’s strategy for California that we should look south of the Bay Area. Way south.

The city that jumps to mind is San Diego. Some AV companies are already playing around the Irvine area and Los Angeles seems too unwieldy. Plus, Ford already has a footprint in San Diego. The automaker partnered way back in 2017 with AT&T, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies to test Cellular vehicle-to-everything (CV2X) at the San Diego Regional Proving Ground with the support of the San Diego Association of Governments, Caltrans, the city of Chula Vista, and intelligent transportation solutions provider McCain. The upshot of these trials? To improve traffic efficiency, vehicle safety and “support a path towards autonomous vehicles.”

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Hi everyone. Let’s dive into two key pieces of proposed legislation this week: the infrastructure bill and the tailpipe emissions standards.

After months of negotiations, U.S. senators have finally settled on a $550 billion infrastructure package that includes investments in roads, bridges, broadband and more. The bill would provide $7.5 billion to electrify buses and ferries, including school buses, and $7.5 billion to build out a national network of public EV charging stations. Subsequent statements on the bill from the White House say directly that the EV investments are intended to keep the U.S. competitive on the world stage: “U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is only one-third the size of the Chinese EV market. The President believes that must change.”

The budget is just a fraction of the $2.25 trillion bill President Joe Biden originally introduced in March. That version of the bill earmarked billions more for transportation electrification, especially in rebates and incentives to get consumers buying more EVs. The bill is still with the Senate for final approval. Then it will head to the House before finally ending up on Biden’s desk.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation have proposed rules that would beef up tailpipe emissions standards, which had been rolled back under President Donald Trump. The rules would be identical to the agreement the state of California reached with Ford, VW, Honda, BMW and Volvo in 2019, the AP reported. If approved, the rules would apply starting with model year 2023 vehicles.

The aim is to cut carbon emissions from transportation and encourage more people to buy hybrid and electric. But many environmental groups like the Sierra Club — plus some EV automakers — don’t think they go far enough.

“This draft proposal would drive us in the right direction after several years in reverse–but slowly getting back on track is not enough,” Chris Nevers, senior director of environmental policy at Rivian, told TechCrunch. EPA and NHTSA must maximize the stringency of the program beyond the voluntary deal and account for current and future developments in vehicle electrification.

One more thing that caught my eye this week…The Washington Post reported that Biden and a group of automakers are negotiating for the latter group to make a “formal pledge” to have at least 40% of all vehicles sold in 2030 to be electric. The article doesn’t specify which OEMs are part of the talks. However, it’s hard to imagine automakers signing onto anything — even a “voluntary pledge” — without some hefty federal spending to go along with it. We’ll have to see if the provisions in the infrastructure bill are enough.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

As per ushe, there was a ton of transportation news this week. Let’s dig in.

ADAS

Yep, ADAS gets its own section now in an effort to make it abundantly clear that advanced driver assistance systems are not self-driving cars. Never. Never ever.

New York Times’ Greg Bensinger weighs in on beta testing and Tesla in this opinion column.

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora co-founder and chief product officer Sterling Anderson put out a blog and a bunch of tweets to layout a blueprint for an autonomous ride-hailing business that will launch in late 2024 with partners Toyota and Uber. Aurora has spent the past year or so pushing its messaging on self-driving trucks, which the company says is its best and most viable first commercial product. Aurora never entirely ditched the robotaxi idea, but it was pretty quiet on the topic. Until now.

The blog comes about a week after competitor Argo AI and Ford announced a partnership with Lyft. While the timing might not be related, it does show that competition is heating up in both areas — robotaxis and self-driving trucks — with every AV company keen to show progress and deep partnerships.

TuSimple, the self-driving truck company that went public earlier this year, has partnered with Ryder as part of its plan to build out a freight network that will support its autonomous trucking operations. Ryder’s fleet maintenance facilities will act as terminals for TuSimple’s so-called AFN, or autonomous freight network.

Electric vehicles

Ford released Wednesday its second quarter earnings for 2021, which besides containing a surprise profit despite the ongoing chip shortage, revealed that its F-150 Lightning electric pickup has generated 120,000 preorders since its unveiling in May. Ford reported revenue of $26.8 billion, slightly below expectations, and net income of $561 million in the second quarter.

Lucid Group (formerly Lucid Motors) will be expanding its factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, by 2.7 million square feet, CEO Pete Rawlinson said just hours after the company officially went public with a $4.5 billion injection of capital. The company also said it has 11,000 paid reservations for its flagship luxury electric sedan, the Lucid Air.

Polestar said it plans to launch in nine more markets this year, doubling its global presence as it seeks to sell more of its electric sedans. The company, which is the electric performance vehicle brand under Volvo Car Group, also wants to double the number of retail stores to 100 locations and add more service centers by the end of the year. The Swedish automaker has more than 650 so-called “service points” in Polestar markets and wants to exceed 780 by the end of 2021.

REE Automotive has picked Austin for its U.S. headquarters. The company said the headquarters will help it address the growing U.S. market demand for mission-specific EVs from delivery and logistics companies, Mobility-as-a-Service and new technology players.

Tesla reported its second-quarter earnings and it was packed with news, including that the company generated $1.14 billion in net income, marking the first time the company’s quarterly profit (on a GAAP basis) has passed the three-comma threshold. And they hit that profitability metric without completely relying on the sale of zero-emissions credits to other automakers.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in on the company’s battery strategy and disclosed that the company is pushing the launch of its electric Semi truck program to 2022 due to supply chain challenges and the limited availability of battery cells. And everything is pointing to the Cybertruck also being delayed until next year.

And finally, Tesla’s latest quarterly earnings report showed growth in its energy storage and solar business. The company reported $801 million in revenue from its energy generation and storage business — which includes three main products: solar, its Powerwall storage device for homes and businesses, and its utility storage unit Megapack. More importantly, the cost of revenue for its solar and energy storage business was $781 million, meaning that for the first time the total cost of producing and distributing these energy storage products was lower than the revenue it generated. That’s good news.

eVTOLs and other flying things

Joby Aviation completed the longest test flight of an eVTOL to date: Its unnamed full-sized prototype aircraft concluded a trip of over 150 miles on a single charge. The test was completed at Joby’s Electric Flight Base in Big Sur, California, earlier this month. It’s the latest in a succession of secretive tests the company’s been conducting, all part of its goal to achieve certification with the Federal Aviation Administration and start commercial operations.

Lilium, the electric air taxi startup, has tapped German manufacturer Customcells to supply batteries for its flagship seven-seater Lilium Jet.

People stuff

AEye, a lidar company, has been adding to its executive team in the past few months. The most recent is the hiring of automotive veteran and former Valeo executive Bernd Reichert as senior vice president of ADAS. the company has also hired Velodyne’s former COO Rick Tewell, Bob Brown from Cepton and Hod Finkelstein as chief research and design officer from Sense Photonics.

Cruise is also on a bit of an executive and engineering hiring spree. The company sent me a list of recent folks who have joined including former Southwest Airlines employee Anthony Gregory as VP of market development, Phil Maher, the former Virgin Atlantic COO, as VP of central operations and Bhavini Soneji as VP of product engineering. Soneji was most recently VP of engineering at Headspace, and was at Microsoft and Snapchat before that.

Cruise also hired Vinoj Kumar, who oversaw Google’s cloud infrastructure and software systems, as VP of Infrastructure and Yuning Chai, former lead perception researcher at Waymo, as head of AI Research. In all, Cruise now employs more than 1,900 people.

Don Burnette, the co-founder and CEO of self-driving trucks company Kodiak Robotics, sat down with TechCrunch as part of our ongoing Q&A series with the founders of transportation startups. The interview covers a lot of ground, including Burnette’s views on the company’s strategy, current funding conditions in the industry and what he learned at Otto. the self-driving trucks startup he co-founded and that was acquired by Uber.

Trevor Milton, the fast-talking showman founder of Nikola and the electric truck startup’s former CEO and executive chairman, was charged with three counts of fraud. He is free on $100 million bail.

Milton “engaged in a fraudulent scheme to deceive retail investors” for his own personal benefit, according to the federal indictment unsealed by U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Milton was charged with two counts of securities fraud and wire fraud by a federal grand jury.

 

#argo-ai, #aurora-innovation, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #kodiak-robotics, #redwood-materials, #tesla, #the-station, #transportation

Growth is not enough

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We were a smaller team this week, with Natasha and Alex together with Grace and Chris to sort through a week that brought together both this quarter’s earnings cycle, and the Q3 IPO rush. So, it was just a little busy!

Before we get to topics, however, a note that we are having a lot of fun recording these live on Twitter Spaces. We’ve found a hacky way to capture local audio and also share the chats live. So, hit us up on Twitter so you can hang out with us. It’s fun – and we may even bring you up on stage to play guest host.

Ok, now, to the Great List of Subjects:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#alphabet, #ascap, #class, #contentful, #earnings, #electric-vehicles, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #lordstown-motors, #microsoft, #oova, #peppy, #redwood-materials, #robinhood, #robinhood-ipo, #shopify, #softbank, #squire, #startups, #tesla, #tiger-global

Redwood Materials raises $700M to expand its battery recycling operation

Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel shared his aspirations last year to turn the startup he co-founded in 2017 into one of the world’s major battery recycling companies. Now, the former Tesla co-founder and CTO has the money to accelerate those plans.

Redwood Materials said Wednesday it raised $700 million from high-profile institutional investors and venture firms, providing the capital needed to expand its existing operations well beyond its Carson City, Nevada, home base to locations throughout North America and even into Europe.

The Series C round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates and included Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Baillie Gifford, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Fidelity. Previous investors — Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund — returned to put more capital into Redwood. Valor Equity Partners, Emerson Collective and Franklin Templeton also participated, the company said.

Redwood previously raised $40 million in a Series B and some seed money, which brings its total raise under $800 million, according to the company.

The company’s post-funding valuation is $3.7 billion, according to a source familiar with the investment round. Redwood declined to comment on the figure.

Redwood Materials is aiming to create a circular supply chain. This closed-loop system, Straubel said, will be essential if the world’s battery cell producers hope to have the supply needed for consumer electronics and the coming wave of electric vehicles.

Redwood recycles scrap from battery cell production and consumer electronics like cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and supplies those back to its customers, which today includes Panasonic at the Gigafactory in Nevada that it operates with Tesla and Envision AESC’s battery plant in Tennessee. Redwood has also partnered with Amazon to recycle EV and other lithium-ion batteries and e-waste from parts of their businesses.

“In our view, the need for these materials will grow exponentially over time as we enter the era of de-carbonization,” Joe Fath, portfolio manager of the T. Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund, said in a statement, adding that “Redwood is well-positioned to be at the forefront of tackling this emerging and critically important problem.”

Straubel sees a bottleneck coming as the whole supply chain seeks to access critical materials. That will affect the growth rate and challenge automakers like Ford, GM and Volkswagen that have laid out ambitious plans to electrify their portfolios.

That problem is likely to compound as more automakers go down the electric path. Last week, Mercedes-Benz said it will spend €40 billion ($47 billion) to become an electric-only automaker by the end of the decade. The German automaker determined it will need battery capacity of more than 200 gigawatt-hours. To meet those needs, Mercedes plans to set up eight battery factories with existing partners and one new partner to produce cells.

Straubel said it’s time for Redwood to scale more aggressively.

Those plans were already well underway even before it closed the $700 million round, Straubel noted. The company announced in June it had purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. Redwood now has some operations at the site.

Redwood is also in the process of nearly tripling the size of its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada. The new 400,000-square-foot addition onto the recycling facility is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

To support the growth, Redwood started hiring more employees, with plans to add more than 500 jobs over the next two years. Redwood employs more than 130 people today.

The company has expanded in other ways as well, including the launch of a program that allows consumers to send in personal electronics such as smartphones to be recycled.

“This additional equity to some extent helps us finish all those things, but it’s not really the primary purpose for all of it,” Straubel said.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #jb-straubel, #redwood-materials, #tesla, #transportation

Redwood Materials is setting up shop near the Tesla Gigafactory as part of broader expansion

Redwood Materials, the battery recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. The purchase is part of an expansion plan that aligns with the Biden administration’s drive to increase adoption of electric vehicles and boost domestic battery recycling and supply chain efforts.

The company said Monday that its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada will also nearly triple in size. Redwood is adding another 400,000 square feet onto the Carson City recycling facility. As part of its growth plans, Redwood is also hiring hundreds of workers. The company, which is backed by Amazon, employs 130 people today and expects to add more than 500 jobs over the next two years.

Redwood’s expansion announcement follows the Biden administration’s 100-day review of the U.S. supply chain and the release of a Department of Energy’ document that lays out a plan to improve the domestic supply chain for lithium-based batteries.

“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,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said Monday 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 US businesses as it spurs innovation and demand for technologies–like vehicle batteries and battery storage–creating clean energy jobs for all.”

Redwood Materials, which was founded in 2017, is trying to create a circular supply chain. The company has a business-to-business strategy, recycling the scrap from battery cell production as well as consumer electronics like cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles. Redwood collects the scrap from consumer electronics companies and battery cell manufacturers like Panasonic. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and then supplies those back to Panasonic and other customers. The aim is to create a closed loop system that will ultimately help reduce the cost of batteries and offset the need for mining.

Redwood Materials has a number of customers, and has only publicly disclosed that it is working with Panasonic, Amazon and AESC Envision in Tennessee

Redwood Materials says it recovers about 95% to 98% of the elements from the batteries such as nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper. Today, it receives 3 gigawatt-hours annually, a figure that the company says is equivalent to about 45,000 cars.

 

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #gigafactory, #jb-straubel, #lithium-ion-batteries, #panasonic, #redwood-materials, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

Recycling startup Redwood Materials is partnering with Proterra to supply EV battery materials sustainably

A growing number of companies have emerged over the last few years determined to reduce waste in the electric vehicle battery market. Chief among these is recycling firm Redwood Materials, which has quickly expanded since its launch in 2017 by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel to become the largest lithium-ion battery recycler in North America. Now the firm is teaming up with electric commercial vehicle manufacturer Proterra in a deal that may help boost the domestic battery supply chain.

This is the first publicly announced partnership between Redwood and an automaker.

Under the agreement, all Proterra batteries will be sent to Redwood’s facilities for recycling in Carson City, Nevada. The two companies entered the agreement in January, but have been in discussion since last summer, when Proterra reached out to learn more about Redwood’s recycling process. That led to a trip out to Redwood’s facilities in Nevada to see if the recycler could process Proterra battery packs.

“That went really well,” Proterra CTO Dustin Grace told TechCrunch. Grace worked for Straubel for around nine years at Tesla. “We were super excited to see their operation. From there, we started work on our master supply agreement.”

Proterra has sent around 26,000 pounds of battery material to Nevada for recycling since entering the partnership, though this does not represent the pace of future deliveries. Overall, Redwood receives 60 tons per day or 20,000 tons of batteries per year.

The batteries that power Proterra’s fleets are designed to last the lifespan of the vehicle, but the company offers a battery leasing program that guarantees replacement after six years – which means plenty of useful life will remain in the battery, as much as 80-90% charging capacity. To exploit the remainder of this capacity, Proterra has plans to reuse the batteries in second-life applications – such as in stationary storage systems hooked up to Proterra charging hardware – before they head to Nevada.

“First the grading of the battery will occur at Proterra by our remanufacturing engineering team. If the battery is deemed ready for second-life, it will go into one of those applications; if it’s not, it gets recycled,” Grace said.

Only once all this useful life is exhausted will the batteries be sent to Redwood, where the waste will be reprocessed into valuable raw material. And with the transit EV market poised to reach 50% of all annual sales by 2025, there will be plenty of batteries that will need reprocessing.

The news comes just weeks after Redwood announced it was teaming up with e-bike manufacturer Specialized to recycle its batteries. Redwood already has arrangements to process scrap from Panasonic’s battery cell production at the Nevada Tesla Gigafactory, and with Amazon to recycle EV batteries and other waste. Through these business-to-business partnerships Redwood aims to develop a circular battery supply chain, supplying the raw materials back to the manufacturer. The company also accepts electronics and batteries from everyday consumers, which can be mailed to Redwood via a mailing address posted on its website.  

The partnership is a sign that both companies are thinking large-scale and long-term. A spokesperson for Redwood said in a statement to TechCrunch that the recycler is focused on “developing the solution for a fully closed-loop recycling for EV batteries.” That means finding truly sustainable, long-term sources of materials like cobalt, lithium and copper to eventually move beyond terrestrial mining. And Straubel has been vocal in the past about his ambition to grow Redwood into one of the world’s largest battery materials companies.

As more battery grade raw materials become available in the United States, Proterra sees an opportunity to eventually expand into domestic battery cell manufacturing.

“It’s still early days but we’re trying to set ourselves up for the future state of this market at scale. That’s really the primary benefit of this partnership existing today,” Grace said. “The way we see it, domestic cell production for Proterra is a very, very important part of our roadmap here in the coming years. The idea of generating more battery-grade raw materials on North American soil directly supports the expansion of that battery manufacturing concept within the US. So I think this starting now absolutely aids our plans for domestic cell manufacturing in the near future.”

#automotive, #jb-straubel, #proterra, #recycling, #redwood-materials, #transportation

Recycling startup Redwood Materials is now accepting your old smartphones

Redwood Materials, the recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has quietly opened up its enterprise to everyday consumers and all of the old electronics sitting in their junk drawers.

The move expands upon the Carson City, Nevada-based company’s existing and primary strategy to recycle scrap from battery cell production and consumer electronics for corporate customers like Panasonic and Amazon.

The startup has posted a “recycle with us” tab on its website, which states “Have lithium ion batteries or e-waste? We’ll recycle your phones, tablets, power tools and any other device with a lithium-ion battery.” There isn’t anymore information on the website beyond an address, where consumers can send their e-waste, and a “contact us” button.

Straubel told TechCrunch in October that its business model could someday evolve to include consumers because they had received so many inquiries from people. It seems that Redwood has decided to take the leap.

Redwood Materials isn’t setting strict parameters on what consumers can send, a spokesperson said, who confirmed the company is even taking cables. Redwood told TechCrunch it wants to hear from consumers and will determine over time how it might expand the program. For instance, the company said it might formalize the consumer program and add shipping boxes and labels to make the process easier.

For now, Redwood is going to open it up and see what happens.

The majority of lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and other consumer electronics are not recycled and instead either sit forgotten in the owner’s junk drawer or enter the waste stream and end up in a landfill.

Redwood Material is aiming to change that by creating a circular supply chain. Redwood collects scrap from Panasonic’s battery cell production and as well as consumer electronics such as cell phone batteries, laptop computers and power tools from other corporations. The company then processes the discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and supplies those back to Panasonic and other customers.

Eventually, Straubel wants Redwood to be part of the end-of-life solution for electric vehicle batteries as well. The CEO has aspirations to set up facilities in strategic regional locations around the world to meet this need. For now, most of the items recycled and processed at Redwood’s two facilities in Carson City are for Panasonic and other unnamed consumer electronics-related companies.

#automotive, #panasonic, #redwood-materials, #tesla, #transportation

Why Amazon and Panasonic are betting on this battery recycling startup

JB Straubel, the Tesla co-founder and former CTO, is often cast as the humble and pioneering engineer, the quiet one who toiled away in the background for 15 years on some of the company’s most important technologies. That characterization — which intensified as the hype and media attention on Tesla CEO Elon Musk grew — tells a half truth.

Straubel isn’t prone to self-promotion, or even progress reports. His personal Twitter account, nor the one dedicated to his startup, Redwood Materials, has ever even tweeted. And he does like toiling away on complex problems.

But his understated delivery obfuscates his ambitions and plans for Redwood Materials, the recycling startup that he co-founded in 2017. Straubel envisions and is actively working to make Redwood one of the world’s major battery recycling companies, with numerous facilities strategically scattered throughout the globe.

“This is something that is a major industry and a major problem, and it’s a big part of why I want to spend my time on it,” Straubel said on TechCrunch’s virtual stage Wednesday at TC Sessions: Mobility. “I want to do something that can actually make a really material impact on sustainability in the world. And you need scale to do that. So I am very excited to keep growing this and to be one of, if not the major battery recycling company in the world. And eventually, one of the large battery materials companies in the world.”

The Carson City, Nevada-based company, which Straubel runs, is aiming to create a circular supply chain. The company has a business-to-business strategy, recycling the scrap from battery cell production as well as consumer electronics like cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles. Redwood collects the scrap from consumer electronics companies and battery cell manufacturers like Panasonic. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and then supplies those back to Panasonic and other customers. Redwood Materials has a number of customers, and has only publicly disclosed that it is working with Panasonic and Amazon.

redwood materials

Image Credits: Redwood Materials

While Redwood Materials is a B2B company, its business model could someday evolve. Interest has been so high that Straubel is now contemplating whether it should also expand into a more consumer-facing business as well. Redwood may never offer collection sites where consumers can drop off old smartphones and other consumer electronics. However, the number of inquiries from local government officials, as well as consumers looking for options to recycle electronics, including the batteries in EVs, has prompted Straubel to at least consider the possibility.

What is known is that Straubel sees numerous facilities — perhaps dozens — getting set up regionally, and in some cases co-located with factories if the customer is large enough. The company hasn’t disclosed where those future facilities will be located.

The company has two recycling and processing facilities in Carson City. And while that hardly qualifies it as one of the world’s largest battery recycling companies, Redwood is already operating at the “gigawatt scale.”

“We’ve been able to grow extremely quickly and to ramp up our capacity and I expect that will follow roughly the scale of lithium-ion production, lagging by a few years,” he said.

To put Straubel’s words into context, consider the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. Today, the factory has the capacity to produce 35 gigawatt hours of lithium-ion battery cells annually. If Straubel hit the scale he’s shooting for, Redwood would be supplying Panasonic with enough materials to match that production capacity. Reaching that goal would fundamentally change Panasonic’s supply chain away from minerals that had been mined and toward those recycled by Redwood. Those recycled materials would come from Panasonic’s production scrap as well as other sources of consumer electronics.

Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America, said it would be foolish for the company to ignore the recycling supply.

“We’ve already dug these metals out of the ground, we’ve put them in cells, they’re sitting there,” Mikolajczak said during the joint interview with Straubel at TC Sessions: Mobility. “And yeah, it’s a little difficult to handle cells, they process a little differently than a typical metal ore, right, but at the same time, we have a much higher concentration of the metals we need than a typical metal ore. So it makes total sense to go after recycling and to do it aggressively because there’s a lot of it, there’s a lot of batteries already out in the world.”

Second-life batteries

Today, the majority of lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and other consumer electronics are not recycled and instead either sit forgotten in the owner’s junk drawer or enter the waste stream and end up in a landfill. Electric vehicles have a much longer shelf life, so to speak. But eventually batteries used in electric vehicles will pose a challenge for automakers, as well as communities grappling with the waste.

Straubel wants Redwood to be a part of that end-of-life solution for electric vehicle batteries as well.

“The second-life issue and how these batteries are recovered it’s really interesting and there’s a lot of different ideas around about how batteries can go into a whole second application,” Straubel said, noting that Redwood is not working directly on second-life use cases. “It’s great if we can get more useful life on these devices by reusing them for a period of time, but it only delays the inevitable; they eventually need an appropriate disposal, and recycling solution.”

Straubel said he wants Redwood to be that backstop.

There are a number of automakers that have talked about repurposing EV batteries for energy storage. But the details of how an OEM might recapture those batteries back from consumers is scant. Straubel wants Redwood to be an independent company so it can partner with all OEMs producing electric vehicles and provide its materials across the entire industry.

Redwood has never talked publicly about which automakers it might or already is partnering with. However, looking across the EV landscape a few likely partners emerge. For instance, electric vehicle startup Rivian has never announced plans to work directly with Redwood Materials. But the companies do share Amazon as an investor and customer. Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe and Straubel not only know each other, they share a common vision.

Scaringe has talked about plans for second-life batteries — albeit without a lot of detail yet — as well as what happens at the end of a battery’s life. Rivian doesn’t have any vehicles on the road today, so it’s a seemingly distant problem. That changes in 2021 when the company will bring an electric pickup truck and SUV to the consumer market, as well electric vans to Amazon. Ultimately, Rivian has a contract to deliver 100,000 electric vans to Amazon.

“I’m really excited about what JB [Straubel] is doing because we’d love to have these vehicles be a feedstock, and the batteries from these vehicles be a feedstock to then begin another start of lifecycle for another set of batteries and electric vehicles,” Scaringe said in an interview last month at the Bloomberg Green Summit, in which he joined Straubel and Ross Rachey, director of Global Last Mile Fleet and Products at Amazon, on a panel. “The ability to control this essentially as a closed ecosystem allows us to learn and build the muscle memory for this as the whole industry starts to shift not only to electrification, but different methods of consumption as well.”

All about scale

Straubel said he isn’t interested in taking Redwood Materials public, certainly not in the short term.

“For better or worse, I had a front row seat to some of the less efficient parts of being a public company,” Straubel said, a comment directed to Tesla’s public status. “It’s nothing that I’m rushing toward. I think that being public is somehow equated with success, which doesn’t really make sense.”

He said his goal is for Redwood to make an impact, do something meaningful at an industrial scale and generate returns — aka be profitable.

“It’s not about going public quickly, or, you know, trying to give a quick return to investors or something like that,” Straubel said. “This is what I really want to spend my time on. And I see this as a very long-term growth mission that is likely to span decades.”

Smartphone discarded consumer electronics

Workers sort through a pile of used mobile phones in New Delhi, India. (Image Credits: Getty Images / Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg)

Straubel talks a lot about scale, both in terms of his vision for Redwood as well as the current state of e-waste sitting in junk drawers of U.S. consumers. It was the scale of the Gigafactory, which is used by Panasonic to make battery cells and by Tesla to make the battery packs and electric motors for its vehicles, that partially drove Straubel to start Redwood in the first place.

“As the world electrifies transportation it needs so many different materials and the supply chain upstream of the factory is, I think, often under appreciated,” he said. “The Gigafactory is a little bit like an iceberg — there’s so much of it that’s kind of below the surface, in the suppliers and in the mines and refineries and all the different things that need to feed into it that you don’t typically see.”

Parts of the supply chain became more of a bottleneck as the Gigafactory ramped, he added.

“You certainly see Tesla focusing more on this, I think rightly so,” Straubel said, a nod to Musk’s recent public comments about needs to focus on the broader supply chain of materials such as nickel. “That was a very interesting area that I thought wasn’t getting as much attention and end-of-life and recycling as a part of that material supply chain is just an incredibly powerful space, one where I think we can have a major impact on the sustainability of creating batteries.”

#celina-mikolajczak, #electric-vehicles, #jb-straubel, #redwood-materials, #rivian, #tc-sessions-mobility, #tesla, #transportation

Announcing the final agenda for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

TC Sessions: Mobility is back and we’re excited to give the final look of what and who is coming to the main stage.

Before we get into who is coming, let’s tackle one important change from our 2019 inaugural event: this year, TC Sessions: Mobility will be virtual. Never fear, the virtual version of TC Sessions: Mobility will bring all of what you’d expect from our in-person events, from the informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews to the networking and this year, even a pitch-off session.

While virtual isn’t the same as our events in the past, it has provided one massive benefit: democratizing access. If you’re a startup or investor based in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America or another region in the U.S., you can listen in, network and connect with other participants here in Silicon Valley. Plus, you’ll be able to meet all of the attendees through our matchmaking platform, CrunchMatch.

This year, we’re also holding a pitch-off competition for early-stage mobility companies, but you’ll need to make sure you have your ticket to join us at the event online. Prices start at just $25 for an Expo Ticket and only $195 for a General Admission Ticket to experience the whole event. We also offer a $50 tickets for students.

TechCrunch reporters and editors will interview some of the top leaders in transportation to tackle topics such as scaling up an electric vehicle company, the future of automated vehicle technology, micromobility, building an AV startup and investing in the industry. Our guests include Argo AI co-founder and CEO Bryan Salesky, Waymo COO Tekedra Mawakana, Lucid Motors CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson, Ike Robotics co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun, Formula E race car driver Lucas di Grassi, Cruise’s director of global government affairs Prashanthi Raman, Hemi Ventures managing partner Amy Gu, Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath as well as TuSimple co-founder and CTO Xiaodi Hou and Boris Sofman, former Anki Robotics founder and CEO who now leads Waymo’s trucking unit.

Don’t forget that General Admission tickets (including $50 savings) are currently available for a limited time; grab your tickets here before prices increase.

AGENDA

Tuesday, October 6

Taking AVs to the Next Level Tekedra Mawakana (Waymo)

Waymo Chief Operating Officer Tekedra Mawakana is at the center of Waymo’s future, from scaling the autonomous vehicle company’s commercial deployment and directing fleet operations to developing the company’s business path. Tekedra will speak about what lies ahead as Waymo drives forward with its plan to become a grownup business.

The Changing Face of Delivery with Matthew Johnson-Roberson (Refraction AI), Ali Kashani (Postmates), and speaker to be confirmed.

Small startups and logistics giants alike are working on how to use automated vehicle technology and robotics for delivery. Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder of Refraction AI and Ali Kashani, the VP of special projects at Postmates will talk about the challenges and opportunities of using robots for delivery.

Investing in Mobility with Reilly Brennan (Trucks VC), Amy Gu (Hemi Ventures), and Olaf Sakkers (Maniv Mobility)

Reilly Brennan, Amy Gu and Olaf Sakkers will come together to debate the uncertain future of mobility tech and whether VC dollars are enough to push the industry forward.

Networking Break

With our virtual platform, attendees can network via video chat, giving folks the chance to make meaningful connections. CrunchMatch, our algorithmic matching product, will be available to ensure you’re meeting the right people at the show, as well as random matching for attendees who are feeling more adventurous.

Setting the Record Straight with Bryan Salesky (Argo AI)

Argo AI has gone from unknown startup to a company providing the autonomous vehicle technology to Ford and VW — not to mention billions in investment from the two global automakers. Co-founder and CEO Bryan Salesky will talk about the company’s journey, what’s next and what it really takes to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology.

The Next Opportunities in Micromobility with Danielle Harris (Elemental Excelerator), Dmitry Shevelenko (Tortoise), Avra van der Zee (Superpedestrian)

Worldwide, numerous companies are operating shared micromobility services — so many that the industry is well into a consolidation phase. Despite the over-saturation of the market, there are still opportunities for new players. Danielle Harris, director of mobility innovation at Elemental Excelerator, Dmitry Shevelenko, founder at Tortoise will discuss, and VP of Strategy and Policy at Superpedestrian.

Building an AV Startup with Nancy Sun (Ike)

Ike co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun will share her experiences in the world of automation and robotics, a ride that has taken her from Apple to Otto and Uber before she set off to start a self-driving truck company. Sun will discuss what the future holds for trucking and the challenges and the secrets behind building a successful mobility startup.

Uber’s City Footprint with Shin-pei Tsay (Uber)

Uber’s operations touch upon many aspects of the transportation ecosystem. Whether its autonomous vehicles, food delivery, trucking or traditional ride-hailing, these products and services all require Uber to interact with cities and ensure the company is on the good side of cities. That’s where Shin-pei Tsay comes in. Hear from Tsay about how she thinks through Uber’s place in cities and how she navigates various regulatory frameworks.

The Road to the All-Electric Air with Peter Rawlinson (Lucid Motors)

Just weeks after Lucid Motors unveils its long-anticipated all-electric luxury Air sedan, we’ll sit down with Peter Rawlinson to discuss the challenges of building a car company and assembling that first production vehicle as well as plans for the future.

Wednesday, October 7

The Future of Racing with Lucas Di Grassi (Audi Sport)

Formula E driver Lucas Di Grassi is part of a new racing series, in which riders on high-speed electric scooters compete against each other on temporary circuits in cities. Think Formula E, but with electric scooters. The former CEO of Roborace and sustainability ambassador of the EsC, Electric Scooter Championship, will join us to talk about electrification, micromobility and a new kind of motorsport.

The Future of Trucking with Xiaodi Hou (TuSimple) and Boris Sofman (Waymo)

TuSimple co-founder and CTO Xiaodi Hou and Boris Sofman, former Anki Robotics founder and CEO who now leads Waymo’s trucking unit, will discuss the business and the technical challenges of autonomous trucking.

The Electrification of Porsche with Detlev von Platen (Porsche AG)

Porsche has undergone a major transformation in the past several years, investing billions into an electric vehicle program and launching the Taycan, its first all-electric vehicle. Now, Porsche is ramping up for more. Porsche AG’s Detlev von Platen, who is a member of the company’s executive board, will talk about Porsche’s path, competition and where it’s headed next.

Navigating Self-Driving Car Regulations with David Estrada (Nuro), Melissa Froelich (Aurora) and Jody Kelman (Lyft), Prashanthi Raman (Cruise)

Autonomous vehicle developers face a patchwork of local, state and federal regulations. Government policy experts, from Nuro, Aurora, Lyft and Cruise, discuss the progress that’s been made, the challenges that remain and how startups can navigate the jumble of regulations and deploy their autonomous vehicle technology at scale.

Future of Cities: Delivery Takes Flight with Margaret Nagle (Wing)

Margaret Nagle, head of policy and public affairs at Wing, will talk about how drones used for delivery could reshape cities and improve accessibility.

Delivering and Building EVs with Thomas Ingenlath (Polestar)

Polestar is less than four years old and already has two vehicles on the market and more on the way. In this fireside chat with CEO Thomas Ingenlath, we’ll discuss the company’s focus, strategy and sleek design.

Scooting Through the World’s Regulatory Frameworks Tony Adesina (Gura Ride), Fredrik Hjelm (VOI Technology), and Euwyn Poon (Spin)

Although dockless scooters first hit the streets of the U.S., there’s plenty of scooter activity going on abroad. And thanks to different regulatory landscapes and players, the state of scooters looks different depending on where you are. Scooters have taken off in Europe, with a number of players operating across the continent, as well as in South America. Now, shared scooters and ebikes are popping up in Africa. Hear from Spin CEO Euwyn Poon about bringing his U.S.-centric company abroad, Voi co-founder Fredrik Hjelm about the state of scooters in Europe and Tony Adesina, the founder and CEO of micromobility startup Gura Ride about opportunities and challenges in Africa.

Startup Pitch-Off

Select, early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have five minutes to present their companies.

Life after Tesla JB Straubel (Redwood Materials)<br />
JB Straubel might be best known as Tesla’s co-founder and former CTO who was responsible for some of the company’s most important technology, notably around batteries. But Straubel is hardly finished. He launched his own recycling startup called Redwood Materials that is focused on creating a circular supply chain and recently named Amazon and Panasonic as customers. We’ll sit down with Straubel to talk about his latest venture, time at Tesla and of course, battery technology and the state of the electric vehicles.

Building better battery tech  Celina Mikolajczak (Panasonic) JB Straubel (Redwood Materials)

Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of battery technology for Panasonic Energy of North America, and JB Straubel, co-founder and CEO of Redwood Materials, will dig into the state of battery tech, what it will take to meet growing demand while minimizing the environmental impact, and how their respective companies are working together.

 

#argo-ai, #aurora-innovation, #cruise, #lucid-motors, #lyft, #panasonic, #polestar, #redwood-materials, #startups, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2020, #tesla

Battery tech superstars JB Straubel of Redwood Materials, Celina Mikolajczak of Panasonic coming to TC Mobility 2020

It was a trickle at first that has evolved into a slow and steady stream. Now, a wave of new electric vehicles is building, promising to deliver an unprecedented number of models to North America, Europe and China over the next two to three years.

There might not be a better time to dig into EVs and we have two superstars coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2020. JB Straubel, co-founder and CEO of Redwood Materials who pioneered the battery powertrain design for Tesla as its longtime CTO, and Celina Mikolajczak, the vice president of battery technology for Panasonic Energy of North America, will join us on our virtual stage to talk about all things electric vehicles.

This virtual event takes place October 6-7, and we’re excited to hear from these two technology leaders working at the forefront of the industry.

Straubel’s role at Tesla cannot be understated. The co-founder and executive was responsible for some of the company’s most important technology during his 15 years there, including leading the cell design, supply chain and the first Gigafactory concept through the production ramp of the Model 3.

But Straubel’s story isn’t just tied to Tesla. The former Tesla executive went on to found another startup in 2017 called Redwood Materials . The battery recycling startup is focused on circular supply chains, essentially turning waste into profit and solving the environmental impacts of new products before they happen. Its first named customer is Panasonic; and just this week announced Amazon has joined that list.

Mikolajczak has a long history researching and developing better lithium-ion batteries. Her technical consulting practice at Exponent focused on lithium-ion cell and battery safety and quality. She then took a senior management position at Tesla that was focused on cell quality and materials engineering. During her time at Tesla, Mikolajczak developed the battery cells and packs for Tesla’s Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Roadster Refresh.

After leaving Tesla, Mikolajczak went on to serve as director of engineering focused on battery development for rideshare vehicles at Uber Technologies. Last year, she joined Panasonic Energy of North America, where she is vice president of battery technology. Mikolajczak leads a team of more than 200 engineers and other technical staff to improve lithium-ion cell manufacturing and to bring the latest cell technologies to mass production for Tesla at the Gigafactory facility in Sparks, Nevada.

In short: these two know a lot about battery technology from how it has developed in the past decade to where it’s headed and the implications it will have on automakers, consumers and the economy.

Mikolajczak and Straubel are just two in a long list of all-star speakers, including Bryan Salesky, co-founder and CEO of Argo AI, Tekedra Mawakana, chief operating officer at Waymo, Ike co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun as well as folks from Nuro, Aurora, Cruise, Lyft and Uber. There are startups as well including Refraction AI, which came out of stealth on our stage at last year’s mobility event.

We hope you can join in October 6-7, 2020 at the event. As you might have heard, TC Sessions: Mobility is a virtual event. Don’t worry, we know many of you want to network. We’ve built out features into our platform to give attendees unparalleled access to speakers, investors and fellow founders. Get your tickets before prices increase in a few short weeks! There are discounts for groups and students and exclusive opportunities for exhibiting for early-stage founders.

#automotive, #events, #jb-straubel, #panasonic, #redwood-materials, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2020, #tesla, #transportation

Amazon’s first five climate fund investments include Redwood Materials, Rivian

Redwood Materials, the recycling startup founded by Tesla’s longtime CTO and co-founder JB Straubel, has landed Amazon as a new investor and customer.

Amazon’s investment in Redwood Materials is one of a handful announced Thursday that stems from the e-commerce giant’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund. Amazon announced in June that it would commit to invest $2 billion in sustainable technologies and services that will help it reach its commitment to have net-zero carbon operations by 2040.

Amazon said Thursday that the first recipients of its $2 billion fund also include CarbonCure Technologies, which developed technology that consumes carbon dioxide in concrete, climate technology company Pachama, electric automaker Rivian and Turntide Technologies. Amazon didn’t disclose the amount of the investments.

At least one of these investments has already been announced, although without the specific detail that the funds were coming from the climate fund. For instance, Amazon, an existing investor in Rivian, was a named a participant in the electric automaker’s $2.5 billion round in July. Rivian said 2019 it was developing an electric delivery van for Amazon using its skateboard platform. Amazon ordered 100,000 of these vans, with deliveries starting in 2021.

While Amazon’s interest in Rivian has been public for more than a year, the other investments have been unknown until now.

However, there were hints earlier this month that Amazon might have an interest in — and at the very least an awareness of — Redwood Materials. The startup, which launched in 2017, recently raised $40 million from investors, including Capricorn Investment Group and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the environmental-focused fund launched by Bill Gates that includes Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos as a board member. It’s possible that Amazon participated in that $40 million raise.

What’s perhaps more important than the investment amount is the relationship that has been established. Redwood Materials will also help Amazon recycle lithium-ion batteries from its electric vehicles as well as  e-waste from other parts of Amazon’s businesses and reuse their components.

Redwood Materials, a recycling startup based in Carson City, Nevada, is aiming to create a circular supply chain.

“We’ve made maybe more progress than some people may think and we’re actually running recycling operations and have revenue from those,” Straubel told TechCrunch. “In terms of customers, we have customers  on both sides of our company — on the incoming side there is material we recycle for companies and then on the outgoing side there are chemicals and materials that we sell back into the supply chain.”

Redwood already has customers on both sides of the business, Straubel said, although Panasonic and now Amazon are the only two that have been publicly named. Redwood is recycling the scrap from Panasonic’s battery cell manufacturing operation at the so-called Gigafactory it operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. The company also has customers — that have yet to be named — on the consumer electronics side, Straubel said.

“We’re recycling and processing things as diverse as cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles,” he said. “So it’s a kind of an amazing diversity of small- to mid-range applications that today really struggle to find a good solution. The recycling rates of those materials in particular are really atrocious in the market.”

#amazon, #automotive, #redwood-materials, #transportation

Volkswagen-backed QuantumScape to go public via SPAC to bring solid-state batteries to EVs

QuantumScape, the solid-state battery company backed by Volkswagen Group, has agreed to merge with a special purpose acquisition company Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp. as it aims to raise the capital it needs to commercialize solid-state batteries for electric vehicles.

The merger will give QuantumScape a post-deal market valuation of $3.3 billion.

QuantumScape said it was able to raise more than $700 million through the business combination, a figure that includes $500 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE. The raise was anchored by institutional investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company and Janus Transaction. The combined company will be named QuantumScape and is expected to remain listed on the NYSE and trade under the new ticker symbol “QS.”

The merger and associated PIPE transaction will fund the company’s plans to first production, according to QuantumScape founder and CEO Jagdeep Singh. Numerous automakers have pursued solid-state batteries, but challenges such as cost have hampered efforts to commercial the technology.

Electric vehicles on the road today are equipped with lithium-ion batteries. A battery contains two electrodes. There’s an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. An electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as the courier that moves ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging. Solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte and not a liquid or gel-based electrolyte found in lithium-ion batteries.

Developers claim that solid electrolytes have greater energy density, which translates into squeezing more range out of a smaller and lighter battery. Solid electrolytes also are supposed to be better at thermal management, reducing the risk of fire and the reliance on the kinds of cooling systems found in today’s EVs.

Summer of the SPAC

QuantumScape joins what appears to be a seemingly endless line of venture-backed companies that have eschewed the traditional IPO path and instead opted to go public via a reverse merger with a SPAC, or blank-check company.  QuantumScape is also part of a smaller and notable group of electric vehicle-related companies that have announced plans to go public via a SPAC. EV companies CanooFisker Inc.Lordstown Motors and Nikola Corp. have gone public, or announced plans to, via a SPAC merger this spring and summer.

Unlike some of the companies in this new batch of SPACs, QuantumScape can hardly be called a startup. The Stanford University spinout has been working for a decade on developing solid-state batteries and designing a scalable manufacturing process to commercialize its battery technology for the automotive industry.

Volkswagen venture

QuantumScape attracted attention and capital early on from high-profile venture firms like Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures. Volkswagen entered the picture in 2012. The automaker has invested a total of $300 million in QuantumScape, including $200 million this year.

The heart of the VW-QuantumScape relationship is a joint venture, which was announced in 2018, that aims to accelerate the development of solid-state battery technology and then produce them at commercial scale. The companies have plans to set up a pilot plant for the industrial-level production of the solid-state batteries. Volkswagen said in June that plans for the pilot factory will be “firmed up” sometime this year.

QuantumScape’s board is also loaded with notable investors and experts in the electric vehicle industry, notably former Tesla CTO and Redwood Materials founder JB Straubel, who called QuantumScape’s solid-state anode-less design “the most elegant architecture I’ve seen for a lithium-based battery system.”

Kensington Chairman and CEO Justin Mirro will also join the combined company’s board of directors.

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