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Tesla Cofounder Is Building A $3.5 Billion Plant To Make EV Battery Parts In The U.S.

Redwood Materials, a battery recycling and materials company started by Tesla cofounder JB Straubel, will spend $3.5 billion through the end of the decade on a plant in Nevada making cathodes and other essential components for electric vehicle batteries. It will be the first such facility in the U.S. and initially have the capacity to supply material for 1 million EVs annually.

The Carson City, Nevada-based company had said last year it would build a $1 billion facility to process cathode materials, without identifying a location. It’s begun construction of its first such plant on 175 acres near its recycling facilities, which are located close to Tesla’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, said spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson. The plant will produce enough cathode material to supply 100-gigawatt hours of batteries annually by 2025 and five times that volume over the next decade. Panasonic, Tesla’s main battery partner, will be a primary customer.

Redwood wants to open additional U.S. plants in the years to come to take the lead in the first large-scale cathode production operations in the U.S., Georgeson said. It’s raised about $1 billion to date and she declined to comment on where additional funds will come from.

“We’re starting production of copper foil for anodes this year and cathodes in 2024, ramping to 100-gigawatt hours of both by 2025,” she said. “Neither of those components today are produced in the U.S. and they make up almost the entire bill of materials that go into a battery cell factory.”

Currently, EV batteries and materials are mostly produced in China, South Korea and Japan. But the Biden Administration has prioritized domestic production, earmarking $3.1 billion of funds in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for new U.S. manufacturing capacity. Over the past year, companies including General Motors, Ford, Hyundai and Panasonic have announced multibillion-dollar investments in new factories to make lithium-ion cells, and GM said in March it would produce cathodes in Canada with South Korea’s Posco Chemical.

Redwood said the raw materials it needs to make battery anodes and cathodes, including nickel, cobalt and manganese, will come from both its recycling operations and commodity suppliers. A cathode is an electrode attached to a battery’s positive terminal in which atoms gain electrons.

The company’s focus is on finding sustainable ways to make EV batteries, given both tight global supplies of some of the materials and the harmful environmental impacts of mining. Earlier this month, Redwood partnered with Volkswagen and Audi in the U.S. to recover material from spent battery packs, following similar partnerships with Toyota, Ford, Volvo Cars, electric truck and bus maker Proterra and bicycle maker Specialized. It’s also got recycling programs with Amazon, Panasonic and ERI, which claims to be North America’s largest electronics waste consolidator.

Straubel was brought into Tesla nearly two decades ago when Elon Musk invested in the electric-car maker in its initial phase. He led the development of its battery packs and electric motors as chief technology officer and oversaw Tesla’s Gigafactory until he left the company in 2019.

Redwood raised $775 million last year in a funding round that drew investment from Ford, Fidelity, Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund. The closely held company hasn’t shared any revenue details yet.

The $3.5 billion investment plan was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.