Tesla co-founder wins Amazon funding for electrical battery mission

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Tesla co-founder JB Straubel has been funded by Amazon for Redwood Supplies, a start-up aiming to extract lithium, cobalt and nickel from outdated smartphones and different electronics for reuse in new electrical batteries.

Redwood is certainly one of 5 corporations Amazon is investing in as a part of its $2bn Local weather Pledge Fund, introduced this yr.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief government, mentioned in a press release that this primary batch of corporations have been “channelling their entrepreneurial power into serving to Amazon and different corporations attain web zero by 2040 and hold the planet safer for future generations”. 

Mr Straubel, Tesla’s know-how chief from 2003 till final yr, based Redwood in 2017 after seeing that the worldwide shift in direction of electrical automobiles is more likely to trigger pointless environmental harm from a surge in mining.

His imaginative and prescient is a “world the place the entire transportation is finished by electrical automobiles and we’ve batteries powering a sustainable world”, he instructed the Monetary Instances. “And all of these batteries are in a position to be recycled and remanufactured many, many occasions, in order that we will have a virtually closed loop.”

Redwood has fewer than 100 staff however has already attracted $40m of funding from Capricorn Funding Group, a sustainability-focused enterprise capital agency, and Breakthrough Power Ventures, an environmental fund backed by Mr Bezos, Invoice Gates and several other different billionaires largely from the world of tech.

“There are an exceptional quantity of cell telephones on this planet that presently are being discarded as trash or thrown right into a landfill,” mentioned Mr Straubel, estimating the quantity at near 1bn a yr. “It’s a large, untapped useful resource . . . If we will get better 98 or 99 per cent of these supplies and reuse them, we don’t want very a lot new materials to maintain that complete course of operating.”

When batteries are used repeatedly they finally die, however Mr Straubel defined that the underlying components have been mainly sealed from the atmosphere, which allowed for them to be damaged down and repurposed. 

“Regardless that the battery is internally degraded . . . the entire similar supplies are nonetheless in there — the entire similar atoms of lithium, nickel and cobalt,” he mentioned. “You possibly can nonetheless harness all of those self same supplies, however they should be reprocessed . . . and introduced again to a state the place they might be used once more and constructed into a brand new battery.”

Mr Straubel declined to say how a lot Amazon was investing however mentioned there was “potential for partnership on numerous completely different ranges”. This might embody serving to Amazon construct an end-of-life course of so shopper electronics offered by Amazon may be reused. 

Redwood launched a partnership final yr with Panasonic to reclaim the scrap it generates when it makes battery cells on the Tesla gigafactory in Nevada. 

Rivian, the electrical truck maker Amazon has beforehand backed, can also be a part of the brand new funding spherical. The opposite three corporations are lesser identified. They’re Carbon Treatment, which makes use of recycled CO2 in building supplies; Turntide Applied sciences, maker of a software-driven power environment friendly motor being piloted in Amazon’s services; and Pachama, a pc imaginative and prescient firm that screens the progress of carbon-offsetting obligations by analysing satellite tv for pc imagery.

“We are able to have a look at these photos and, with algorithms, decide whether or not the carbon sequestration claims are appropriate or not,” mentioned Diego Saez Gil, chief government of Pachama. 

Mr Saez Gil wouldn’t disclose the full quantity of Amazon’s funding, apart from to say it got here as a part of a $5m spherical led by Breakthrough Power Ventures. 

Amazon’s extremely publicised efforts to cut back its environmental impression, which included renaming Seattle’s ice hockey enviornment, have collided with the fact of assembly intense procuring demand within the wake of Covid-19, and Mr Bezos’s longstanding obsession to aggressively drive down supply occasions. 

In 2019, Amazon’s complete carbon footprint elevated 15 per cent in contrast with 2018. At 51.2m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equal, Amazon’s emissions final yr have been akin to 13 coal-burning energy crops operating for 12 months, in accordance with a comparability instrument from the US Environmental Safety Company.

Amazon has mentioned it will likely be a net-zero carbon firm by 2040, a decade forward of the aim set by the Paris settlement. That effort entails ordering greater than 100,000 supply automobiles from Rivian, to be rolled out by 2030 on the newest. The primary batch of Rivian electrical vans will ship packages beginning subsequent yr. 

Video: The good battery raceVideo: The good battery race

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