Tesla’s business is built on the strength of the company’s battery innovations. From the days of the original Roadster to the launch of the Model S Plaid this year, it was evident that Tesla’s battery technology is a critical factor that allows the company to maintain its lead against competitors in the sustainable transportation market.
Batteries, however, still tend to attract criticism, and a key talking point for anti-EV groups usually includes claims about how batteries could not be recycled. This idea was soundly debunked by Tesla in its 2020 Impact Report, with the company stating that 100% of its scrapped batteries are recycled, and 0% end up in landfills. In the recently-released document, Tesla stated that it had established an internal ecosystem to re-manufacture batteries coming from the field to Tesla service centers.
What is quite interesting is that most batteries that Tesla receives today are still pre-consumer, which means that they usually come through R&D and quality control. Batteries that have been deployed to the consumer, such as those used in vehicles like the Model S and products like the Powerwall, are still going strong today. As such, Tesla only receives a very limited number of these batteries from the field, and they tend to be from vehicles that have seen extensive use, such as taxis.
With Tesla focusing a lot of its efforts on battery recycling, the company is looking to eventually attain a closed-loop system. Onsite battery recycling facilities in the company’s battery production sites are then crucial to attain this goal. Tesla added that once battery recycling is achieved at scale, it could push the envelope for its products even further.
“While Tesla has worked for years with third-party battery recyclers to ensure our batteries do not end up in a landfill, we understand the importance of also building recycling capacity in-house to supplement these relationships. Onsite recycling brings us one step closer to closing the loop on materials generation, allowing for raw material transfer straight to our nickel and cobalt suppliers. The facility knocks the cycle of innovation for battery recycling at scale, allowing Tesla to rapidly improve current designs through operational learnings and to perform process testing of R&D products,” Tesla wrote.
Tesla’s battery recycling efforts all but confirm that facilities like Gigafactory Berlin and Gigafactory Texas — factories that would have their own battery production site — would have a dedicated battery recycling plant onsite as well. And the more Tesla’s battery recycling systems improve, the more cost-effective the company’s operations would become.
“As the manufacturer of our in-house cell program, we are best positioned to recycle our products efficiently to maximize key battery material recovery. With the implementation of in-house cell manufacturing at Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg and Gigafactory Texas, we expect substantial increases in manufacturing scrap globally. We intend to tailor recycling solutions to each location and thereby re-introduce valuable materials back into our manufacturing process.
“Our goal is to develop a safe recycling process with high recovery rates, low costs and low environmental impact. From an economic perspective, we expect to recognize significant savings over the long term as the costs associated with large-scale battery material recovery and recycling will be far lower than purchasing additional raw materials for cell manufacturing,” Tesla explained.
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