Domestic mining key to Biden EV strategy
Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News, December 15, 2021
While laying out an action plan to establish the national network of electric vehicle charging stations needed to keep pace with its ambitious goal of 50% of all vehicles sold in the United States being electric by 2030, the Biden administration reiterated that domestic battery manufacturing and critical minerals supplies are key aspects of the overall EV strategy.
The White House is backing up this commitment to domestic battery supply chains with roughly $20 billion in loan guarantees, including more than $3 billion for mining, extraction, processing, recovery, or recycling of critical minerals and metals.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration tasked federal agencies to carry out a 100-day assessment of the vulnerabilities to U.S. supply chains and find solutions that would make them strong and more resilient.
Following this exercise, federal agencies made dozens of recommendations aimed at securing a reliable domestic EV battery supply chain, including the support of sustainable and responsible domestic mining and processing of key battery materials, such as cobalt, graphite, lithium, and nickel.
“With the global lithium battery market expected to grow by a factor of five to ten by 2030, it is imperative that the United States invests immediately in scaling up a secure, diversified supply chain for high-capacity batteries here at home,” the White House penned in a June 8 statement on battery supply chains. “That means seizing a critical opportunity to increase domestic battery manufacturing while investing to scale the full lithium battery supply chain, including the sustainable sourcing and processing of the critical minerals used in battery production all the way through to end-of-life battery collection and recycling.”
Toward this goal, the Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries released the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries that lays out five critical steps:
• Secure access to raw and refined battery materials and discover alternates for critical minerals.
• Support the growth of a U.S. materials processing base to meet domestic battery demand.
• Stimulate the U.S. battery electrode, cell, and pack manufacturing.
• Enable commercial-scale end-of-life reuse and recycling of critical material.
• Maintain and advance U.S. battery technology leadership by supporting research and development, education, and workforce development.
The White House says the battery blueprint codifies the findings of the earlier review in a 10-year plan to urgently develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America, something President Joe Biden has emphasized from the start.
“Resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains are going to help revitalize our domestic manufacturing capacity and create good-paying jobs,” he said in February.
To help fund the strategy detailed in the blueprint, the U.S Department of Energy Loan Programs Office has made more than $20 billion in loans and loan guarantees available to mining and manufacturing companies along the EV battery materials supply chain.
Critical materials of interest include battery minerals and metals such as lithium, cobalt, and graphite; rare earth elements such as the neodymium used in the magnets for EV motors and wind turbines; and other critical minerals needed for EV manufacturing and charging infrastructure.
More than $3 billion of the DOE LPO funding is available for mining, processing, and recycling of these critical minerals. Originally unveiled by the White House in June, these loan guarantees are being administered under the DOE Title 17 Renewable Energy and Efficiency Energy Projects.
Through its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, DOE has made another $17 billion available for projects further along the EV supply chain, including the manufacturing of batteries and charging components.
Pointing to its investments in the sourcing of domestic lithium from geothermal brines and the recent federal approval of Lithium America’s Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, the Biden administration says there are signs that its strategy is working.
The Biden administration also pointed to several agreements struck by American automakers for domestic sources of lithium – Ford Motors sourcing recycled lithium from Redwood Materials, General Motors cutting a deal with Controlled Thermal Resources for sourcing this battery ingredient from geothermal brines in Southern California, and Tesla’s deal to source the critical battery material from Piedmont Lithium‘s North Carolina mine – as positive signs that the U.S. is making headway toward establishing a complete domestic EV battery supply chain.
“This recognition of our work in California’s #LithiumValley represents a major milestone for the company and for the future of building a sustainable and responsible Lithium Battery Supply Chain in the United States,” Controlled Thermal Resources posted to LinkedIn on Dec. 13. “We applaud the Biden-Harris-Administration’s swift and comprehensive action plan, and we look forward to working closely with federal, state and local government agencies and community stakeholders to support Biden’s vision for a clean energy and EV future.”