U.S. seeks path to battery self-reliance
New effort aims for ways to recycle key lithiumion metals
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.
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.