Lyft is recycling its e-bike and scooter batteries with Redwood Materials

Lyft is partnering with Redwood Materials, a battery recycling company founded by a former Tesla executive, to ensure its fleet of shared e-bikes and scooters have a second life.

It’s a noteworthy deal considering Lyft’s status as the largest electric bike-share operator in North America thanks to its bike-share business, including the extremely popular Citi Bike in New York City. The company claims that Citi Bike was the “25th most-ridden transit network in the United States.”

Redwood Materials was founded in 2017 by Jeffrey “JB” Straubel, a co-founder and former chief technology officer of Tesla. In addition to breaking down scrap from Tesla’s battery-making process with Panasonic, Redwood also recycles EV batteries from Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Specialized, Amazon, and others.

Many of the batteries from those first-wave electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, are just now reaching their end of lifespan and are in need of recycling. Redwood promises that all of its recycling is done domestically — much of the e-waste in the US is shipped to developing countries for smelting — and with an eye toward reuse and recovery.

For Lyft, the deal is about ensuring that its huge, nationwide fleet of electric bikes and scooters aren’t ending up in a landfill at the end of their lifespan — which is now around five years.

“We really tried to close the loop and recycle all of our bikes and scooters,” said Antoine Kunsch, sustainability program manager at Lyft, in an interview with The Verge, “directing either components to specialized recyclers, and batteries to partners like Redwood that can process them and put them back into the global supply chain for battery manufacturing.”

This is how the partnership will work: Lyft will recover depleted e-bike batteries through its operations teams and then ship those batteries to Redwood’s facility in Northern Nevada. The first step will be to figure out how much of the battery is reusable, such as various connectors, wires, plastics, and other components.

After that, Redwood will begin a chemical recycling process, in which it strips out and refines the relevant elements like nickel, cobalt, and copper. A certain percentage of that refined material can then be reintegrated into the battery-making process.

According to Jackson Switzer, senior director of business development at Redwood, each e-bike battery is around 0.5kWh, as compared to an EV battery, which is approximately 65kWh. “We collect 130 e-bike batteries, we’ve got enough battery metals to make a new EV battery,” Switzer said.

E-waste recycling is a notoriously shady business, with companies sending raw materials overseas to developing nations that lack the infrastructure for safe processing. This has caused a growing ecological disaster.

Redwood says it does all of its recycling domestically, not just the separation and aggregation processes. And the company aims for maximum transparency, inviting all of its clients to come to the facility and inspect every inch of the process.