energy insights

Government Looks to Battery Recycling as EV Industry Takes Shape

The Department of Energy recently came out with a national blueprint for a more robust U.S. supply chain for lithium-ion battery manufacturing. In addition to increased exploration for raw materials such as lithium, the plan also includes increased emphasis on battery recycling.

That’s not a bad idea considering only 5% of America’s lithium-ion batteries get recycled, according to the DOE’s Daniel R. Simmons, assistant secretary for the agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Recycling and reclaiming our natural resources are always good ideas from an environmental standpoint, but the government’s interest in recycling batteries goes beyond sustainability.

Many of the world’s major automobile manufacturers are ramping up EV production. The list includes General Motors, Honda, Volvo and Audi. Meanwhile, Ford recently announced plans to invest $11.4 billion in electric vehicle assembly and battery manufacturing plants in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Clearly, the auto industry is going all in on electric vehicles. A tsunami of lithium-ion battery demand is on its way to American shores and the U.S. battery manufacturing supply chain could be caught flatfooted. China is already way ahead in the race to manufacture EV batteries and could very well emerge as the Saudi Arabia of the 21st century, holding the lifeblood of U.S. transportation in the palm of its hand.

While it’s no surprise the DOE is sounding national alarm bells, it’s probably going to take more than a wake-up call to mobilize a national effort toward battery recycling. The U.S. government is moving in the right direction, though. Congress recently passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill with $200 million allocated for research and development in EV battery recycling but the clock is ticking.

The U.S. produces only a fraction of the world’s lithium output. While the domestic lithium mining industry is growing, demand for rechargeable batteries will increase with every new electric vehicle that rolls off U.S. production lines.

We must meet growing demand by revolutionizing our domestic battery recycling industry to reduce our reliance on China and other leaders in the international supply chain

There are a few companies who are working in the battery recycling space, including Li-Cycle and Redwood Materials. Another company on the leading edge of this effort calls Oklahoma home. Spiers New Technologies Inc. is a leader in repairing, remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing advanced battery packs used in hybrid and electric vehicles. This innovative company is at the forefront of the EV revolution providing a vital service for a sustainable future.

As we see more EVs on our nation’s roads, both government and private entities must continue to invest in developing the new technologies that will push us further toward electrifying our nation’s vehicle fleet.