South Carolina EV battery recycling plant could salvage parts for a million cars a year

Redwood Materials' Charleston hub will help make EVs more eco-friendly.

Redwood Materials

The push to recycle electric vehicle batteries just gained some momentum. Redwood Materials has unveiled plans to build an EV battery recycling plant on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina. The roughly 600-acre facility (previewed in a render above) will break "end-of-life" batteries down to their raw metals and rebuild them as the anodes and cathodes that are crucial to EVs. The parts should support up to 1 million EVs per year. That could not only reduce waste, but reduce the costs and risks associated with importing those components from overseas.

The plant will reportedly amount to a $3.5 billion investment that includes 1,500 jobs. Like Redwood's Nevada campus, the Charleston hub will rely solely on clean energy and all-electric operations. The company claims its approach lowers CO2 emissions for producing the battery components by about 80 percent compared to the output from the usual Asian supply chain.

Construction should start for the South Carolina plant in the first quarter of 2023. The first recycling process should be ready by the end of that year, Redwood says. The company plans to scale afterward.

The locale choice is strategic. Redwood says South Carolina is part of a growing "Battery Belt" where EV cell manufacturing will ramp up to "hundreds" of gigawatt-hours of production capacity by 2030. Its seaside port helps, too. The state further hosts factories for car manufacturers that include BMW and Redwood partner Volvo, so a brand could quickly repurpose spent batteries for vehicles rolling off the line.

More importantly, Redwood appears to have broader support from the auto industry. On top of Volvo, it has partners like Ford, Toyota and battery makers that include Panasonic and Envision AESC. Large-scale battery recycling facilities are still relatively rare in the US — Li-Cycle's new Alabama plant can process batteries for about 20,000 EVs per year. This expansion could make recycling far more commonplace, and make a better case for electric cars as the environmentally conscious options.