By Trevor Hunnicutt and Ernest Scheyder
(Reuters) -President Joe Biden’s strategy to make the United States an electric vehicle powerhouse will include pushing home recycling of batteries to reuse lithium and other metals, according to government officials.
As Biden makes fighting climate change and competition with China centerpieces on his agenda, the administration is set to wrap up a 100-day review on Friday on supply chain gaps in key areas, including vehicles. electric (EV).
These gaps include minerals used in electric vehicle batteries and consumer electronics. The administration is also looking for ways to reduce the use of metals in new battery chemistries.
Reports from various government agencies will be sent to the White House, a process that Biden ordered in an executive order earlier this year. Parts of the reports could be released publicly next week.
Democrats are pushing aggressive climate targets to make the majority of American-made cars electric by 2030 and all cars on the road to be electric by 2040.
Securing enough cobalt, lithium, and other raw materials to make electric vehicle batteries is a major hurdle, as national mines face significant regulatory hurdles and environmental opposition. Reuters reported on May 25 that Biden plans to rely on mines in allied countries to supply much of the metals needed to build electric vehicles.
The administration’s options to stimulate domestic recycling include direct investment in scientific research and projects, as well as spending funds approved by Congress.
Boosting home recycling would help the administration advance that goal by breaking down older electric vehicles into new vehicle components and thus relying less on mining.
“When you look at the way the United States has approached the recycling opportunity, what is very evident is that we need to invest in that capacity, we have to take a more proactive approach,” said one of the administration officials.
“A big part of the lithium opportunity is really recycling and being a world leader in recycling lithium from existing batteries and driving it into these new batteries.” The White House would like to see more recycling plants open in the United States, one of the officials said, noting the announcement last fall by China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co of plans to build a battery recycling plant in Mexico to supply the US electric vehicle market
FOCUS ON R&D The administration’s emerging strategy will also include a strong emphasis on research and development aimed at boosting the use of already mined metals, the officials said. That plan would effectively expand the ongoing investigation at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (NYSE :), which has been the focal point of much of the government’s research on battery recycling. Extracting the various mineral components from a battery has proven difficult and expensive in the past, and new research is focusing on ways to reuse cathodes and other parts of the battery, according to the Argonne researchers. Washington’s recycling approach comes when other regions are doing the same. The European Union is considering cracking down on metal waste exports to encourage more regional recycling, as part of an effort to become climate neutral by 2050. [L5N2NL2YZ] Global electric vehicle sales topped 2.5 million last year, a figure that is forecast to rise 70 percent by 2021 and continue to rise through 2040, according to IHS Markit forecasts. Without recycling, the electric vehicle revolution would see 8 million tons of battery waste being seen in US landfills alone by 2040, according to US government estimates.An April report found that the Recycling batteries at the end of their useful life could reduce the projected need for new sources of batteries for electric vehicles through mining by 55% by 2040. For lithium, the figure is 25% and for cobalt and nickel is 35%. Recycling will have the added benefit of reducing demand for new mines, said the report, which was written by conservation group Earthworks and the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.
That would help Biden avoid some battles with environmentalists and other groups that oppose mining. “We can drive the renewable energy transition without digging new holes in the ground,” said Payal Sampat of Earthworks. In the past, lead-acid batteries were rarely recycled, but now almost all are broken down for reuse in internal combustion engines. Environmentalists say it could be a model for the electric vehicle recycling industry. Battery recycling plants have started to slowly open up in the United States. Last fall, Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ 🙂 invested in Redwood (NYSE 🙂 Materials, a Nevada-based private recycling company that signed a deal to recycle scrap metal and battery parts from a Tennessee-based contractor for Nissan. (OTC:) Leaf Electric Vehicle from Motor Co. Tesla (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc has said it is developing a battery recycling system at its Nevada Gigafactory. The company also hires external recyclers.
And Apple Inc (NASDAQ 🙂 has started recycling old iPhones and other electronic devices at a facility in Austin, Texas. The US government is also the largest shareholder in mining investment firm TechMet, which is a major investor in Canadian battery recycler Li-Cycle Corp.
Li-Cycle Corp plans to go public later this year through a merger with blank check acquisition company Peridot Acquisition Corp, whose shares rose 6% on Friday.