Tesla has been recycling batteries made at the factory using third-party recyclers. Now, as the earliest Model Ses reach 7 years old, and the company is starting to receive some batteries back after use in those early cars, it’s setting up its own battery recycling facility.
The new processing center at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada to process both old batteries used in customers’ Teslas as well as those from its own research and development.
The company says lithium, cobalt, aluminum, copper, and steel will be recovered from the batteries in a closed-loop system that optimizes the materials for new battery production.
It also says it expects to save money producing new batteries from the recycled materials, rather than buying new minerals for its batteries.
The new facility should also save significant expenses and pollution from shipping batteries overseas to be recycled, where many of the third-party recyclers are located.
“The closed-loop battery recycling process at Gigafactory 1 presents a compelling solution to move energy supply away from the fossil-fuel based practice of take, make and burn, to a more circular model of recycling end-of-life batteries for reuse over and over again,” the company said in its environmental report.
Argonne National Lab also opened its first battery recycling research and development center in Illinois in February to study how to make recycling lithium-ion batteries more economical. Currently, high prices for cobalt, and rising lithium prices are helping to make battery recycling profitable, but the goal is to make recycling electric car batteries economically sustainable even when mineral prices drop.