VW and Redwood want to turn your old laptops into EV batteries

Battery materials and recycling startup Redwood Materials is expanding a partnership with Volkswagen of America in its bid to collect more end-of-life batteries from consumer electronics and strip out the valuable materials so they can be used to make batteries for electric vehicles.

Redwood has said its technology can recover more than 95% of the critical minerals from batteries (like nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper) and then manufacture the metals into battery components that are supplied to U.S. battery manufacturers for new electric vehicles and energy storage products. Co-founder and CEO JB Straubel, who was formerly the co-founder and CTO at Tesla, has long argued that creating a closed-loop system will reduce battery costs and the need to mine and ship raw materials.

Volkswagen of America and sibling brand Audi contracted with Redwood last year to recover and recycle end-of-life EV battery packs from its thousand-dealership network in the United States. Audi then expanded its partnership with Redwood to launch a consumer-focused recycling program.

Now Volkswagen of America has agreed to set up bins at certain dealerships to collect consumer electronics. The batteries and devices, including cell phones, cordless power tools, electric toothbrushes, wireless headphones and other lithium-ion-powered devices that are collected in the bins, will be sent to Redwood’s Nevada facility to be repurposed as EV batteries.

The consumer recycling program officially launches at 14 dealerships April 22, including locations in New Jersey and Wisconsin. Volkswagen will also set up a bin during the New York International Auto Show, which will be held from April 5 to April 16. Additional dealerships will be added throughout the year.

Redwood has largely been a B2B enterprise since its founding. The company has locked in deals with companies like Panasonic to recycle and process the scrap to recycle scrap from battery cell production. In early 2021, Redwood quietly opened a recycling program to everyday consumers and all of the old electronics sitting in their junk drawers. Redwood posted a “recycle with us” tab on its website, along with an address, where consumers can send their e-waste, and a “contact us” button.

The program has collected tens of thousands of pounds of electronics from consumers, according to Redwood.