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Tesla supplier Redwood Materials to produce 83% less polluting copper for batteries

The environmental sustainability of electric cars is not only a matter of local emissions in cities; it needs to be much more than that. The cost of batteries in environmental terms is high, although it follows a downward trend thanks to the increasing implementation of recycling. In this sense, Redwood Materials has just announced that this year it will start producing copper for batteries with 83% less CO2 emissions than the industry average.

Currently China, South Korea and Japan have absolute domination of the battery industry. The ten largest battery manufacturers are all Asian and between the three countries mentioned they account for 90% of the world’s production of batteries for electric vehicles. Among the raw materials necessary for the production of batteries is copper, the production of which is associated with certain CO2 emissions.

Today, the Asian industry emits 6.18 kilos of carbon dioxide (CO2) for every kilo of copper in sheets. Energy expenditure is responsible for 77% of the emissions generated in the production process, followed by the material itself, logistics (it is a long journey from the mine to the vehicle) and other associated materials.

The company Redwood Materials, founded by JB Straubel – co-founder of Tesla – has now announced that will produce copper reducing CO2 emissions by 83% compared to the current Asian supply chain, remaining at only 1.10 kilos of CO2 for each kilo of copper in sheet. In addition, he has ensured that Panasonic and Tesla Gigafactory 1 will be among the first to receive this copper low in emissions. Copper is used as a negative electrode (anode) in batteries and is therefore an essential component for them.

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The objective of Redwood Materials is to reduce CO2 emissions by 83%

Where is the secret of this reduction in emissions? Essentially, in what it will not be necessary to obtain the copper through mining, but they will use recycled copper In its whole. Redwood Materials will produce copper from end-of-life batteries and other household electronics, commonly referred to as electronic scrap or tech waste. According to the company, the United States exports several hundred thousand tons of copper to Asia each year, so using this material also has an important strategic component.

In this case, copper will be used for the anode of the batteries, but it is by no means the only application of this material in a car. An electric car has more than 1.5 kilometers of copper wiring in the motor stator windings (the figure naturally increases if the vehicle in question has more than one motor). In addition to the motor, there is the inverter, the charger and the conventional wiring that any modern car carries.

On average, a conventional combustion car uses between 8 and 22 kilos of copper, depending on the size of the vehicle. We must bear in mind that a modern car has between 1 and 5 kilometers of cables, depending on its size and equipment. A SEAT Ateca, for example, has 2.2 kilometers of wiring inside that weighs more than 40 kilos. A non-plug-in hybrid car carries around 38 kilos of copper, while a fully electric car can carry a total of just over 80 kilos of copper. It is estimated that by 2025 the automobile industry will need around 3.3 million tons of copper annually.

Redwood Materials currently receives over 6 GWh of end-of-life batteries for recycling. On average, Redwood manages to recover 95% of essential materials such as nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper. With this it is possible to make more sustainable batteries and also reduce their cost. Redwood Materials’ goal is to increase the production of components for anodes and cathodes to 100 GWh per year in 2025, enough to manufacture more than one million electric cars per year, and later reach 500 GWh per year in 2030. In addition to Tesla , Redwood has agreements with Toyota, Ford and Amazon, among others, for the collection of materials, recycling of batteries and subsequent supply of the recycled materials.

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