EXCLUSIVE – Biden’s electric vehicle plan includes battery recycling push


June 4 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s strategy to make the United States a powerhouse in electric vehicles will include increasing domestic recycling of batteries to reuse lithium and other metals, according to government officials.

As Biden puts tackling climate change and competition with China at the center of his agenda, the administration is expected to conclude a 100-day review of supply chain gaps in key areas, including vehicles on Friday. electric (VE).

These deficiencies 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 submitted to the White House, a process Biden ordered in an executive order earlier this year. Parts of the reports could be made public as early as next week.

Democrats are pushing aggressive climate targets for a majority of US-made cars to be electric by 2030 and all cars on the road to be electric by 2040.

Obtaining enough cobalt, lithium, and other raw materials to make electric vehicle batteries is a major hurdle, with domestic mines facing numerous regulatory hurdles and environmental opposition.

Reuters reported on May 25 that Biden planned to rely on mines in allied countries to supply much of the metals needed to build electric vehicles.

The administration’s options for boosting home recycling include direct investment in projects and scientific research, as well as spending funds approved by Congress.

Boosting household recycling would help the administration achieve this by breaking down old electric vehicles into components for new ones and thus relying less on mining.

“When you look at the way the United States has approached the recycling opportunity, what is very obvious is that we have to invest in this capacity, we have to take a more proactive approach,” said one. administration officials.

“A big part of the lithium opportunity is really recycling and being a world leader in recycling lithium from existing batteries and integrating 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 Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium Co of its intention to build a recycling plant from batteries in Mexico to supply the US electric vehicle market.

FOCUS ON R&D

The administration’s emerging strategy will also focus on research and development aimed at boosting the use of metals already mined, officials said.

This plan would effectively expand on-going research at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, 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 battery parts, according to the Argonne researchers.

Washington’s focus on recycling comes as other regions do the same. The European Union is considering restricting exports of scrap metal to encourage more regional recycling, as part of an effort to become climate neutral by 2050.

Global sales of electric vehicles topped 2.5 million last year, a figure that is expected to jump 70 percent by 2021 and continue to rise through 2040, according to IHS Markit forecasts.

Without recycling, the electric vehicle revolution would spill 8 million tonnes of waste batteries into U.S. landfills by 2040, according to U.S. government estimates.

An April report found that recycling end-of-life batteries could reduce the expected need for new copper sources for electric vehicle batteries through mining by 55% by 2040. For lithium, the figure is 25%, and for cobalt and nickel it is 35%. .

Recycling will have the added benefit of reducing demand for new mines, according to the report, written by conservation group Earthworks and the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney.

This would help Biden avoid some battles with environmentalists and other groups opposed to mining.

“We can fuel the transition to renewable energy without digging new holes in the ground,” said Payal Sampat of Earthworks.

Lead-acid batteries were once rarely recycled, but now almost all of them 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 began to slowly open in the United States.

Last fall, Amazon.com Inc invested in Redwood Materials, a private Nevada-based recycling company that signed an agreement to recycle waste and battery parts from a Tennessee-based contractor for the Leaf’s electric vehicle. Nissan Motor Co.

Tesla Inc recycles some battery parts in its Nevada Gigafactory. And Apple Inc has started recycling old iPhones and other electronics at a facility in Austin, Texas.

The U.S. government is also the largest shareholder in mining investment firm TechMet, which is a major investor in Canadian battery recycler Li-Cycle Corp.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; edited by Amran Abocar and Cynthia Osterman


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