The Gigafactory may be the largest industrial building under roof at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center — and in the state of Nevada — but a neighboring company is rivaling that massive operation.
Redwood Material’s 300-acre campus at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center already includes about 1 million square feet under roof, and there’s currently an additional 2 million square feet of building space under construction, said Don Tatro, Redwood Material’s director of state and local policy.
At full buildout, Redwood Materials expects to have more than 5 million square feet of building space, along with an 815,000 square-foot industrial building at Victory Logistics District in Fernley and its company headquarters on Lockheed Way in Carson City.
Founded in 2017 by former Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel, Redwood Materials is creating a circular supply chain to recycle materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper from spent electric vehicle battery packs and consumer electronics powered by lithium-ion batteries.
“Our feedstock is anything from the batteries in laptops, Air pods, tablets and cell phones to EV batteries that we refine into anode and cathode materials,” Tatro said. “If you plug it in and it holds a charge, we will take it.”
Today, Redwood currently receives about 40 metric tons of lithium-ion batteries annually, enough to power more than 100,000 electric vehicles, said Sonja Koch, Redwood’s senior communications and consumer program manager. At full recycling capacity, however, the Northern Nevada facility could handle enough material to create more than 5 million EV batteries each year.
Koch told NNBW that the vast majority of lithium-ion batteries being recycled in North America come through Redwood’s doors.
“We recover more than 95 percent of the critical minerals from those batteries, and then remanufacture the lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper into battery components that supply U.S. battery manufacturers,” she said.
Products are brought into Redwood Materials recycling campus and are broken down through Redwood’s hydrometallurgical refining processes and eventually are turned into anode copper foil and cathode active material. However, end-of-life batteries with residual energy go through a mechanical separation or calcination process that allows Redwood Materials to tap into that latent energy, Koch said.
“That allows us to power the process without the use of any fossil fuels,” she said.
Byproducts from the recycling process include gypsum, which is in drywall and other applications, and graphite that’s used to make industrial lubricants.
“We use every piece that comes in,” Tatro said.
The company’s supply chain was formed and built over the past few years, and it’s continually ongoing, Tatro said. In addition to a wide range of consumer collection points, it includes a range of corporate partnerships where returned and recalled items are sent to Redwood at all levels of the supply chain, Tatro said.
Tatro told NNBW the majority of companies in the lithium-ion recycling space recycle feedstock into what’s known as “black mass,” a dark powdery amalgamation of lithium, cobalt and nickel. Black mass material must be further refined, however, and to do that it has to be sent overseas.
“Our goal is to refine black mass in the United States,” Tatro said. “If you stop at black mass, it still enters the 50,000-mile supply chain to Asia, through Europe, and finally back here to the U.S.
“One of the biggest reasons we are refining all the way to battery-grade materials is to create a circular supply chain here in the United States,” Tatro added. “We are creating that closed loop system here on our Northern Nevada campus.”
Redwood Materials is the first company in the U.S. to produce anode copper foil from recycled materials, Tatro added. Some of Redwood’s operations, such as producing anode copper foil, are currently in production, while others are still scaling up as new space is being constructed and materials pipelines are solidified and expanded, he added.
Redwood Material’s facilities buildout is expected to continue over the next six years, Tatro noted. The company’s current headcount is about 800 employees, which is expected to jump to about 1,500 by year 2030.
Corporate partnerships include a multi-billion-dollar deal with neighboring Panasonic. Redwood Materials has worked with Panasonic since 2019 to reclaim any waste generated in Panasonic’s battery-making processes, and Redwood has supplied Panasonic with anode copper foil derived from recycled products since 2022.
At full production, Redwood Materials expects to produce enough anode copper foil and cathode active material annually to supply two-and-a-half Gigafactories, or enough battery material for approximately 5 million electric vehicles each year, Koch said.
Additional partnerships include recycling end-of-life batteries from Volkswagen and Audi EV vehicles, as well as lithium-ion batteries and products from Toyota, Ford, Volvo, Amazon, Specialized bicycles, Lyft e-scooters and several other companies.
The work Redwood Materials is doing in Northern Nevada will eventually be mirrored at a similar facility planned for Charleston, S.C. Redwood has purchased 600 acres in Berkeley County to construct its Battery Materials Campus 2, Koch told NNBW. The company is expected to invest $3.5 billion in the facility that’s in the heart of a region being called the “Battery Belt” due to the burgeoning presence of lithium-ion battery gigafactories and manufacturers.
“It’s in close proximity to a lot of partners we are working with and will be working with very closely in the future,” Koch said. “We plan to build step-by-step and continue buildout of downstream component manufacturing for anode copper foil and cathode active material.”
Like the Northern Nevada campus, the recycling facility in South Carolina will be 100 percent electric and won’t even have a gas line to the facility, Koch added.
“Our innovative plant design and manufacturing process allows Redwood to reduce CO2 emissions of these products by about 80 percent compared to the current Asia-based supply chain that we are dependent on for these crucial materials,” she said.
Redwood Materials is moving as quickly as it can to meet the exploding demand for EV batteries that’s coming from the regional, national and global battery manufacturers, Tatro said.
“We are supplying battery manufacturers for the first time ever in the United States. That plays a key role in the success of our region and the state, but also for national security interests by decreasing our reliance on foreign sources of these materials.
“By having those operations here in Nevada and the U.S., we are not only driving a circular supply chain that can power the next fleet of electric vehicles, but also increasing U.S. manufacturing capabilities and strategic priorities for the nation,” Tatro said. “That is one of the most exciting things about Redwood and what we are doing in this space.”