Toyota cuts a recycled battery deal

Like all of us in fourth-grade science class, Toyota is learning to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

What happened: Toyota will begin making batteries for some of its new electric and hybrid vehicles using recycled materials, including components from its old Prius models — part of a new deal with Redwood Materials that could have broad implications for the EV industry. 

  • According to Redwood, a recycled material start-up, Toyota will be the first carmaker to recycle end-of-life batteries and return some of the materials to future vehicles. 

Why it matters: One of the biggest economic and environmental problems stemming from the mass production of EVs is mining the raw materials needed for batteries, like cobalt and lithium. If Toyota — one of the world's biggest automakers — is successful in recycling those materials, it could help the industry chart a more straightforward path toward electrification.  

Yes, but: Toyota is still a couple of years away from using these materials, and even when it does, the recycled materials only make up a percentage of what’s needed to build a battery. 

  • The recycled parts will reportedly contain a minimum of 20% recycled lithium, 20% recycled nickel, and 50% recycled cobalt, which still leaves a need for new materials. 

Big picture: Companies around the world are aiming to solve the battery recycling problem, including Hong Kong’s GRST, Oregon-based OnTo Technology, and German chemicals giant BASF, which are all working on making the recycling process commercially viable for automakers.—LA