The US race to dominate the new battery economy

The US race to dominate the new battery economy

The United States will need a secure and resilient supply chain for critical minerals and other components

Batteries are the new oil and the United States lags behind Europe and China in the race to produce them. The historic shift to electric vehicles will give the United States a new opportunity to achieve energy independence, but it will require complex strategic moves that will likely not come to fruition for years.

Most of today’s advanced batteries, not only to power cars and consumer electronics, but also to store clean energy, come from Asia.
The demand for batteries will rise dramatically over the next few decades.
If the United States is to control its own energy destiny, it will need a secure and resilient supply chain for critical minerals and other components. Michael O’Kronley, CEO of Ascend Elements, explains the recycling company’s battery.

Joe Biden’s Electric Ambitions

President Joe Biden wants half of all vehicles sold in the US to be electric by 2030. But the US has only about 5 percent of the production capacity needed to make that happen, Jigar Shah told Reuters news agency. Head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Loan Programs. At the same time, other countries are setting equally aggressive targets on electric vehicles, driving up prices for lithium, nickel and other materials.

The federal government is taking some of the first steps needed to build a domestic battery industry, but experts say there are still significant infrastructure gaps.
Last month, Biden invoked the Cold War-era Defense Manufacturing Act to encourage domestic extraction, processing and recycling of critical minerals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese, needed for electric vehicles and clean energy storage systems.
The government gave incentives to foreign companies to develop refining and manufacturing capabilities in the United States.

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Almost all cathodes and anodes are produced in China

Meanwhile, automakers are rushing to build their own battery factories to secure supplies for upcoming electric vehicles. “This is the direct work of the US government in building heavy industry from the ground up, and it is a thing of the past for presidents,” said Simon Morris, CEO of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

There remains a loophole in the US effort, said JB Straubel, a Tesla co-founder who is now CEO of battery components company Redwood Materials. Even with more battery factories in the United States and more minerals mined from American soil, the two basic and most expensive components of lithium-ion batteries — the cathodes and anodes — are still made almost entirely in China.

Redwood plans to invest more than $2 billion to open its first cathode manufacturing facility in the United States by the end of the year. “If states do not link every link in the supply chain from the mine to the battery cell, their electric vehicle ambitions could collapse,” Morris said. “We are at an important stage,” RJ Scarringe, CEO of electric truck startup Rivian, told Axios. “It’s inspiring, provocative and frightening: If you look at the entire supply chain, right down to the mines, what we have installed today is much less than 10% of what we will need as a planet. That means that more than 90% of that supply chain doesn’t exist yet, so We have the opportunity as a planet to decide where it goes and how it is built.”

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Over the next 10 years, Morgan Stanley analysts expect the battery industry to be “balkanised” as governments and regions compete to establish their own secure supply of manufacturing capacity for batteries and key raw materials.

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