Few people have had the sort of front row seat to the rise of electric vehicles as JB Straubel. The soft-spoken engineer is often considered the brains behind Tesla: it was Straubel who convinced Elon Musk, over lunch in 2003, that electric vehicles had a future.
He then served as chief technology officer for 15 years, designing Tesla’s first batteries, managing construction of its network of charging stations and leading development of the Gigafactory in Nevada. When he departed in 2019, Musk’s biographer Ashlee Vance said Tesla had not only lost a founder, but “a piece of its soul”.
Straubel could have gone on to do anything in Silicon Valley. Instead, he stayed at his ranch in Carson City, Nevada, a town once described by former resident Mark Twain as “a desert, walled in by barren, snow-clad mountains” without a tree in sight.
Metals used in electric vehicle batteries are typically dug out of the ground in places like Australia but JB Straubel believes garages are another untapped source.
At first glance it is not the most obvious location for Redwood Materials, a start-up Straubel founded in 2017 with a formidable mission bordering on alchemy: to break down discarded batteries and reconstitute them into a fresh supply of metals needed for new electric vehicles.
For the rest of this article: https://www.afr.com/technology/why-the-brains-behind-tesla-is-betting-his-fortune-on-urban-mining-20210802-p58f6q