U.S. seeks path to bat­tery self-re­liance

New ef­fort aims for ways to re­cy­cle key lithium­ion met­als

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation & World - By TAMMY WEBBER

CHICAGO — The U.S. gov­ern­ment will lead an am­bi­tious ef­fort to de­velop tech­nolo­gies to re­cy­cle lithium­ion bat­ter­ies from elec­tric ve­hi­cles, cell­phones and other sources to en­sure a re­li­able and af­ford­able sup­ply of met­als cru­cial to bat­tery pro­duc­tion in an­tic­i­pa­tion of soar­ing global de­mand and po­ten­tial short­ages, En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

Call­ing the ef­fort a na­tional se­cu­rity is­sue, the agency an­nounced a $15 bil­lion, three­year re­search­and­devel­op­ment project housed at the Ar­gonne Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory out­side Chicago. The col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Ar­gonne, Oak Ridge Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory, the Na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory and sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties is also an at­tempt to catch up with China and other coun­tries that man­u­fac­ture and re­cy­cle the vast ma­jor­ity of lithium­ion bat­ter­ies, in­clud­ing those shipped back from the U.S., of­fi­cials said.

U.S. de­pen­dence on other coun­tries for met­als such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite, as well as fin­ished bat­ter­ies, “un­der­mines our na­tional se­cu­rity” be­cause the source coun­tries are not al­ways close al­lies, said Daniel Sim­mons, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of the En­ergy De­part­ment’s Of­fice of En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Re­new­able En­ergy.

But the de­mand is also driv­ing the ef­fort. With U.S. au­tomak­ers set to ex­pand pro­duc­tion of elec­tric ve­hi­cles over the next 10 years, and bat­ter­ies from ex­ist­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles near­ing the end of their use­ful lives, it’s time to fig­ure out how to re­cy­cle them in the U.S, said Jeff Span­gen­berger, di­rec­tor of the new re­cy­cling cen­ter, called the Recell Cen­ter.

Span­gen­berger said the gov­ern­ment wants to elim­i­nate the risk for U.S. com­pa­nies to spur do­mes­tic bat­tery pro­duc­tion, other in­dus­tries and jobs.

“By end of this, we should be able show in­dus­try it’s doable, [then] let’s scale up and get com­mer­cial­ized,” he said.

File Photo/chi­natopix

Work­ers trans­fer lithium­ion bat­ter­ies in a fac­tory in Taizhou in east China's Jiangsu prov­ince last July. The U.S. gov­ern­ment is lead­ing an am­bi­tious ef­fort to de­velop ways to re­cy­cle lithium­ion bat­ter­ies.

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