$2.8bn US battery materials boost

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The US government is launching a $2.8bn “American Battery Materials Initiative” to boost the domestic production of batteries for electric vehicles, including silicon anodes, lithium and graphite.

The grants by the US Department of Energy to 20 manufacturing and processing companies for projects across 12 states follow the passing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This runs alongside the CHIPS act on domestic semiconductor manufacturing and the Inflation Reduction Act to boost EV charging infrastructure which together provide $135bn.

The American Battery Materials Initiative is a new effort to mobilize the entire US government in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of critical minerals used for power, electricity, and EVs,

This includes an international ‘Mineral Security Partnership’ with Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, the UK and the European Commission to boost investment across the full value chain.

The partnership is a key way to avoid issues over subsidies to local companies that can trigger global sanctions. Silicon is particular is seen as the key material for anodes in next generation batteries with energy densities over 800Wh/l and European companies such as Nexeon are also ramping up production.

The battery initiative includes over $6bn of matched funding for developing battery-grade lithium to supply approximately 2 million EVs annually, graphite for 1.2 million EVs and nickel for 400,000 EVs.

It will include the first large-scale, commercial lithium electrolyte salt (LiPF6) production facility in the US as well as an electrode binder facility capable of supplying 45% of the anticipated domestic demand for binders for EV batteries in 2030. It will also create the first commercial scale domestic silicon oxide production facilities to supply anode materials for an estimated 600,000 EV batteries annually and the first lithium iron phosphate cathode facility in the US.

This followed a critical minerals and large capacity battery supply chain review that looked mineral-by-mineral at the sustainable, environmentally-responsible domestic mining, processing, and recycling of critical minerals.

President Joe Biden is also invoking the Defense Production Act to authorize investments to secure American production of critical materials for electric vehicle and stationary storage batteries—lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese—from sustainable mining and processing, as well as unconventional sources such as mine waste and geothermal brine.

$200m funding will come from the Department of Defense to re-establish an end-to-end American supply chain for rare earth permanent magnets, used in wind turbines and electric vehicle motors, by 2025. The rare earth supply chain is currently controlled by China.

Recipients of grants include Syrah Resources in Vidalia, Louisiana for graphite, Amprius, Group14 and  Sila Nanotechnologies for silicon anodes and MicroVast for a plant with General Motors to supply 19Gwh of patented polyaramid separators that improves safety for electric vehicles and enable faster charging and longer battery life.

Equipment maker Applied Materials is setting up a 5Gwh manufacturing plant using a scalable, high-volume manufacturing roll-to-roll system for ultra-thin lithium films for pre-lithiation of graphite or silicon anodes as well as lithium metal anodes for battery cells.

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