Specialized e-bike batteries are to be processed by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel’s Redwood Materials after the two firms recently struck a deal.
“Generally, the bikes will long outlast the packs for the typical user,” Specialized chief product officer Chris Yu told The Verge. “And so it’s always been in the back of our minds: what do we do about them?”
Specialized will recover depleted e-bike batteries through retail partners and then ship them to Redwood’s facility in Northern Nevada.
Redwood will first recover usable connectors, wires, plastics and other components before undertaking a chemical recycling process.
“Usually, there’s not very much else in there that’s very recyclable,” said Straubel. “But we strive to really minimise any separate waste streams.”
He went on to highlight how e-bike buyers are highly likely to be the kinds of people who care what happens to used-up batteries.
“They want to make sure that the solution isn’t worse than the problem,” he said. “But to me, this is a story of optimism because these batteries are very highly recyclable, with the right process and method for doing it.”
According to a 2019 estimate by the UK consultancy Circular Energy Storage, only about half of lithium-ion batteries that reached the end of their lives in the previous year ended up being recycled.
Looking ahead to potentially longer-lasting batteries, Straubel is also on the board of QuantumScape who last year released data on a solid-state battery they are developing.
QuantumScape says its battery can be charged to 80% in 15 minutes and boasts a longer lifespan because it eliminates the side reaction between the liquid electrolyte and the carbon in the anode of conventional lithium-ion cells.