This article is sponsored by Panasonic.
When Panasonic Energy of North America began operating side by side with Tesla in 2014, we set out to change the way electric vehicles (EVs) and their batteries are built. Expanding upon that vision, in July we announced an additional $4 billion investment in a potential EV battery manufacturing facility in Kansas.
As a global leader in lithium-ion batteries, Panasonic has shipped over 6 billion EV battery cells from our advanced manufacturing facility in Sparks, Nevada. Panasonic has spent decades developing battery technology, from rechargeable and non-rechargeable household batteries to the recently announced 4,680 EV batteries. Quality, safety and sustainability are of critical importance for us. As a starting point, Panasonic cells use significantly less cobalt than other manufacturers, and we have a roadmap to eliminate cobalt altogether in order to help reduce the environmental and human impacts of cobalt mining.
One of the most expensive components of any electric vehicle is the battery, which can amount to nearly 25 percent of the total vehicle cost. Producing batteries domestically mitigates two major challenges — transportation and unpredictability — and has the potential to increase the availability of electric cars and other technologies that rely upon battery storage. The challenge is that today, no major battery components are produced at scale in the United States. In order to grow a secure, domestic supply chain for EV batteries, Panasonic is working to support localization of key processes well as end-of-life recycling operations. If successful, localization efforts will help improve sustainability efforts as well as bring down costs of batteries and the vehicles that they power.
The creation of a local, circular supply chain for batteries is a crucial step in realizing the full potential of EVs to enable transportation decarbonization.
In order to meet our production goals and advance our commitment to climate action, we needed to reevaluate the supply chain. In partnership with Redwood Materials, a sustainable battery materials company, Panasonic is working to establish the very first steps of a closed-loop battery recycling and remanufacturing process.
Our collaboration with Redwood and other suppliers in North America will help reduce costs and CO2 emissions by eliminating the need for components to be shipped all over the world for processing. This aligns with our environmental goals under the Panasonic GREEN IMPACT initiative, our 2050 environmental vision to reduce CO2 emissions across manufacturing, operations and the end-consumers using our products and solutions.
Panasonic is providing Redwood with copper production scrap, which Redwood will recycle and remanufacture into battery materials that can re-enter our production process. Redwood is less than 10 miles from our Reno Gigafactory, allowing for a hyper-local, innovative partnership. We expect to be receiving this component from Redwood to manufacture new lithium-ion cells by the end of the year. Thanks to our cutting-edge technology and extensive knowledge base, we expect this partnership to grow over time.
“Panasonic will be the first partner to source Redwood’s sustainable copper foil for use at the Gigafactory, and the first time a battery component has been recycled, remanufactured, and returned to the same factory in a completely closed loop,” said Redwood Materials Senior Director of Business Development Jackson Switzer. “Just as Panasonic brought cell manufacturing to the U.S. at scale for the first time six years ago, Redwood is now moving upstream on the battery supply chain for the first time to localize cathode and anode (key battery components) copper foil in the U.S.”
Switzer described the process as “beginning with recycling production scrap and progressing to recycling full EV packs that have reached end of life. The refined and remanufactured materials could someday all be returned to Panasonic for re-entry into a new electric vehicle here in the U.S.”
Recyclability is a cornerstone of Panasonic’s business model, and recycling is already an integral part of our operations. In 1994, Panasonic collaborated with other major consumer electronics companies to establish Call2Recycle, which collects lithium-ion batteries from North American consumers. More than 115 million pounds of batteries have been recycled via Call2Recycle, making it the largest nonprofit product stewardship group in the United States. Panasonic is proud to see this legacy of recycling grow as we seek to accomplish major environmental goals while accelerating the decarbonization of transportation.
As we approach 2030, we hope that hastening the transition to clean energy will also hasten the decarbonization of our own supply chain. By supplying our customers with energy-saving solutions and renewable energy technology, we will cut down on the world’s collective CO2 emissions.
Our commitment to the electric vehicle battery market ensures the continued success of not only our own efforts but also of the innovations that help to reduce the global impact of carbon emissions. This is a massive project, but our role is clear. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to confront this issue head on.