We’ve reported on JB Straubel, Tesla’s former Chief Know-how Officer, and his battery recycling firm Redwood Supplies, a number of occasions on this area. Nonetheless, the EV business is changing into more and more conscious of the significance of constructing home provide chains for battery supplies, and recycling is a crucial a part of that image, so Mr. Straubel and different recycling pioneers are within the highlight. In a current interview for MIT Know-how Evaluate, JB affords some new insights into the large problem of constructing a round financial system, and why we will’t wait.
JB Straubel is considered one of a number of former Tesla execs who left the corporate to start out their very own ventures (see Lucid’s Peter Rawlinson, Blue Improvements’ John Vo, Proterra’s Ryan Popple, and the manager suite at Xcelerate). JB served 16 years at Tesla, and at all times appeared to me to be a drive for calm and stability amid the tabloidesque turnover and turmoil. Within the MIT article, he deftly sidesteps interviewer Casey Crownhart’s query about why he left Tesla (all of them do), however he does clarify why he felt it was so pressing to get into the recycling area.
“It was changing into extra apparent that battery scaling would current the necessity to get so many extra uncooked supplies, parts, and batteries themselves. That was this looming bottleneck and problem for the entire business, even approach again then [in 2017]. And I feel it’s much more clear at present.
“The concept was fairly unconventional on the time. Even your query sort of hints at it—it’s like, why did you allow this glamorous, thrilling high-performance automobile firm to go work on rubbish? I feel entrepreneurship entails being just a little bit contrarian. And I feel to actually make significant innovation, it’s typically not very standard.”
The fossil gas financial system (and the worldwide financial system generally) is predicated on the concept of utilizing stuff and throwing it away. As Straubel sees it, that mindset merely isn’t going to work within the clear vitality financial system. “I feel this whole new sustainable financial system as we’re envisioning it, with the whole lot electrified, merely can’t work except you’ve a closed loop for the uncooked supplies,” he tells Crownhart. “There aren’t sufficient new uncooked supplies to maintain constructing and throwing them away; it will basically be inconceivable.”
The noisy anti-EV crowd always claims (with no proof) that batteries “can’t be recycled.” Mr. Struabel (and the a whole lot of corporations all over the world which are investing within the growing recycling business) would certainly beg to vary. As he factors out, the uncooked supplies in EV batteries “don’t get degraded, [and] they don’t get compromised — 99% of these metals, or maybe extra, may be reused time and again and once more. Actually a whole lot, maybe hundreds of occasions.”
Nonetheless, recycling an EV battery pack doesn’t sound so simple as recycling a beer bottle. “It’s extra sophisticated than I feel many individuals admire. There’s only a complete ton of chemistry, chemical engineering, and manufacturing engineering that has to occur to make and refine the entire parts that go right into a battery. It’s not only a sorting or rubbish administration drawback.
“There’s a number of room for innovation, and this stuff haven’t been properly optimized, and even carried out in any respect in some circumstances. In order that’s actually the enjoyable stuff as an engineer, the place you get to invent and innovate issues that haven’t been carried out.”
When Ms. Crownhart paid a go to to Redwood’s Nevada headquarters, she was struck by the sense of urgency. She requested Mr. Straubel if he believes the EV business is transferring quick sufficient. “I typically don’t suppose we’re going quick sufficient,” he replied. “I don’t suppose anybody is. You realize, I do have this sense of paranoia and urgency and nearly — not precisely — panic. That’s not useful. However I suppose it actually derives from a deep feeling that I don’t imagine we’re appropriately internalizing how unhealthy local weather change goes to be.”
The interview covers much more floor — the combination of recycled and virgin supplies, the challenges of recent battery chemistries — and I like to recommend studying it in its entirety. We (people, that’s) have a restricted time to make sure that what we name civilization will proceed for some time longer. We’re lucky to have such a superb and (comparatively) younger engineer as JB Straubel engaged on what might be a protracted and sophisticated transition to a sustainable financial system.
“Now could be our solely time to actually put together and react,” says Straubel. “The dimensions of all that is so massive that even after we’re operating flat out as quick as we will, with all that urgency that you simply felt and hopefully extra, it’ll nonetheless take us a long time.”
Courtesy of EVANNEX. By Charles Morris