How much does Tesla recycle its batteries?

In its 2021 Impact Report, Tesla claims it can recycle up to 92% of the materials used in a battery.

Source: Tesla

Battery recycling is a subject regularly placed at the heart of issues relating to the electric car. Achieving the reuse of materials from our accumulators would create a closed-loop supply chain, in order, ultimately and in an ideal future, to reduce the extraction of raw materials as much as possible.

As explained in our dossier “Is the electric car a clean vehicle“, only 5% of the metals present in a battery are currently not recycled. Among them is lithium: this element is not neglected because of its properties, but because of its too high cost in terms of recycling.

Important financial issues

This essential theme must be taken seriously by manufacturers in the sector. Among the largest electric car manufacturers in the world, Tesla has for its part created its own recycling process, developed in-house in 2020 and implemented at the Gigafactory in Nevada in the last quarter of 2020.

This method allows it to recycle 92% of the raw materials used in its batteries, tells us Tesla’s 2021 impact report. Last year, the company notably recycled 300 tonnes of copper, 200 tonnes of cobalt, but also and above all 1,500 tonnes of nickel.

How much does Tesla recycle its batteries?
The Tesla Model Y manufactured at the Gigafactory in Austin, Texas // Source: Tesla

Recycling nickel has posed considerable financial challenges since its price spiked in March 2022, given the war in Ukraine. Knowing how to recycle it in large quantities can therefore lead to significant savings. Still, the numbers announced by Tesla are probably minimal compared to tomorrow’s numbers. Most of the batteries now recycled by the Californian firm come from both its R&D and quality control departments, as well as vehicles from its Tesla Model S fleet – especially taxis.

Volumes still low

Since the large sedan was launched in 2013, it’s the only one that can reach a stage far enough along in its life cycle to recycle its battery. Nevertheless, the modest sales volumes of Tesla during the 2010s logically contain the quantity of batteries to be recycled today.

On the other hand, by the end of the 2020s, the flow of batteries to be recycled should increase considerably: by then, it is up to Tesla to fill the last 8 percent of its recycling process.

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