Evolving EV Battery Circular Value Chain in the United States

Type de publication:

Conference Paper

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Bordeaux (2024)

Mots-clés:

battery materials, circular value chain, electric vehicle battery supply chain, recycling

Résumé:

Theme 3: New Technologies and the Evolution of the Value Chain

Kara Alkire, Automotive Futures Group

Title:

Evolving EV Battery Circular Value Chain in the United States

Keywords:

circular value chain, electric vehicle battery supply chain, battery materials, recycling

Purpose:

Will investments in the electric vehicle battery circular value chain in the United States be successful in creating a supply of battery materials to help sustain the industry? 

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the rapidly developing automotive lithium-ion battery industry in the United States, understand the evolving circular value chain, and assess if these relationships and investments will contribute to a sustainable domestic battery materials supply and a robust electric vehicle industry. To better understand the challenges ahead, we will assess impacts of recent progress and present examples of the circular value chain through OEM models.

Methodology:

This is a qualitative study using a case study methodology. The study will rely on primary and secondary sources, including data and findings from industry groups (such as NAATBatt, Volta Foundation), national research laboratories (Argonne National Laboratory), and academic journals. Material and data will be pulled from an ongoing research project on the North American battery manufacturing and supply chain performed by the Automotive Futures Group. 

Findings:

Spurred by the global race toward electrification and domestic policy initiatives, the automotive industry in the United States is experiencing a flurry of impressive financial commitments for new manufacturing projects from all segments of the supply chain. Electric vehicle manufacturers and dominant lithium-ion battery manufacturers are in different stages of constructing their North American strategies. Recruiting reliable suppliers and longtime partners to locate nearby to secure significant pieces of the domestic supply chain is critical to their success. In many cases, essential material and component suppliers for batteries are not operating in the United States. Through the United States Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and state and local governments, generous incentives, grants, and loans are propelling industry expansion to meet the domestic goal of creating a regionally sourced and thriving industry.

Battery manufacturers rely on materials producers for components such as cathodes, anodes, separators, and electrolytes. Many of these suppliers are not operating domestically or not at the volumes demanded by this all-out expansion into electric vehicles. As well, raw materials, such as lithium, nickel, graphite, copper, and cobalt, and battery-grade resources that these suppliers need are not currently available domestically at demanded volumes. New partnerships and cooperation arrangements are emerging with the purpose of developing technology and building essential segments domestically to fulfill these resource needs and create a supply chain that can reduce a reliance on overseas supply, nonrenewable resources, and advance renewable resources. Companies are investing in partners to ensure financing for expansions or to facilitate commercialization at increased volumes, often in regional clusters of cooperation.

Resourcing this pace of growth will be one of the defining features of success. Concerns surrounding critical raw materials include methods of extraction, geopolitics, a refining industry concentrated in China, and simple lack of supply. Mining and resource extraction technologies are experiencing unprecedented investment from industry and government sources in North America, as well as some delays with exploratory phases, proving cleaner technologies, and permitting or court proceedings. In addition to the raw material investments and supply agreements, the industry is also securing renewable sources of supply.

Improved recycling processes and technologies capable of recovering ninety-five percent of critical minerals from recycled batteries offer the industry another opportunity to build a circular supply chain.[1] Battery scrap and waste materials can be recycled, refined, and reintroduced into the supply chain as valuable precursor materials, battery-grade cathode and anode materials, and, in fact, create a product that has performed superior to the original raw material.[2]This segment is partnering and co-locating with battery manufacturers for recycling and component manufacturing, creating a local and sustainable source to the critical issue of resource scarcity and offering potential for circular supply. Increasing the resources for battery production through recycling and remanufacturing the critical materials will decrease costs, decrease emissions, reduce reliance on overseas suppliers, relieve the pressure of new mineral extraction, and deal with the waste of expired batteries and scrap from manufacturing.

By 2029, 100 percent of battery components are required to be produced in North America for companies to qualify for credits, as defined in the United States Inflation Reduction Act.[3] This is an extraordinary feat from where the industry stands today. Industry statements make clear that this policy is largely responsible for driving today’s investment, construction, and relationship activity. The success of the industry’s transition to electric vehicles is dependent upon developing a robust, sustainable domestic supply chain, and closing the loop with renewable battery resources. 

Practical and Theoretical Implications:

The unprecedented levels of investment, industry cooperation, and technological advances toward achieving domestic solutions to the battery materials supply shortage has the potential to accomplish a thriving circular value chain and place the industry closer to their goal of domestically sourced electrification. Examining the value chain through OEM models will allow us to illustrate progress in circular resource supply and relationships. Evaluating recent impacts on the US industry will identify possible effects on the circular value chain as it continues to evolve.

 

[1]  “Ford, Redwood Materials Teaming Up on Closed-Loop Battery Recycling, U.S. Supply Chain.” Ford Media Center, 22 September 2021,

https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2021/09/22/ford-redwood-materials-battery-recycling.html

[2]U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory verifies performance of Redwood cathode from recycled content.” Redwood Materials, 13 October 2022,

https://www.redwoodmaterials.com/news/argonne-national-laboratory-verifies-redwood-cathode-performance/

[3]  Ohnsman, Alan. “Redwood Materials to Supply Cathodes for Panasonic’s Kansas EV Battery Plant.” Forbes, 15 November 2022,

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alanohnsman/2022/11/15/redwood-materials-to-supply-cathodes-for-panasonics-kansas-ev-battery-plant/?sh=13e00dfc2cc9

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