Panasonic recently announced plans to make new electric vehicle batteries using recycled materials from used batteries. Panasonic Energy, a Panasonic Group company, will be working with U.S.-based startup Redwood Materials to extract these materials and produce cathodes (one of the electrodes) at Panasonic’s plant in De Soto, Kansas, beginning in 2025. Panasonic expects this to be the largest cathode manufacturing operation in North America.
This process will help to create what Redwood calls a “circular supply chain.” The way things work now, materials travel tens of thousands of miles before becoming the finished product because of the locations where raw materials are mined and then the different places where cathodes and battery cells are produced.
Panasonic’s plan will create a domestic supply chain, therefore reducing the pollution created while mining and transporting the raw materials. It will also ease the U.S. dependence on countries like China for these materials.
Panasonic Energy Chief Technology Officer Shoichiro Watanabe told Nikkei Asia, “We can secure resources that are in danger of depletion and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from the resource extraction stage to production.”
Panasonic’s partnership with Redwood began in 2019 when the company was tasked with recycling scrap materials from Panasonic’s battery facility in Sparks, Nevada. In November 2022, the companies announced that Redwood would be responsible for extracting nickel, cobalt, and lithium from used batteries, with nickel being the main focus as it accounts for roughly 90% of the cathode material used in Panasonic’s EV batteries.
“Used batteries contain a higher concentration of resources compared to ore and require less energy to smelt,” Watanabe said. “Depending on resource prices, recycled batteries can be cheaper.”
With this plan, Panasonic joins a growing movement among EV battery manufacturers to recycle used battery materials, reports Nikkei Asia.
GEM, a Chinese recycling company, has partnered with Mercedes Benz’s Chinese subsidiary and EV battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL) to recycle batteries.
In 2026, the European Union plans to implement a system that would record information about the origin of battery materials, as well as how much is recycled and how much carbon pollution is created during production.
The impact of recycling battery materials on pollution will be significant. It’s estimated that the mining of cobalt and lithium alone is responsible for about 3 million tons of carbon pollution a year, reports Earth.org.
“Battery manufacturers and recycling companies around the world are racing to develop technology to cheaply extract critical minerals from used batteries,” said Noboru Sato, visiting professor at Nagoya University to Nikkei Asia. Sato added that “it would be a big step toward winning in the EV battery market” if a company was able to make recycled critical minerals 30% cheaper than new minerals.
Panasonic Energy hopes to have the operation running by 2028, per Nikkei Asia.
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