March 3, 2022: A new era of energy storage and electric vehicles in the US risks stalling before it even begins because of potential shortages of critical material supplies, latest reports suggest.
Energy security to power a “clean energy” future was a key message in US president Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, when he urged: “Let’s make it in America”.
But the US is still heavily dependent on imports for key battery materials including cobalt, lithium, manganese and nickel, according to an updated list of 50 mineral commodities critical to the economy and national security, compiled by the US Geological Survey (USGS).
The list has been expanded compared to 35 commodities on the last list finalised in 2018.
The USGS said there was a “compelling case” to add nickel to the list to strengthen development of a home-grown US battery materials supply chain for electric vehicles and energy storage systems.
There is an increasing demand for nickel as a component for producing cathodes for lithium-ion batteries — and “the limited mining, smelting, and refinery capacity in the United States make a compelling case for inclusion”, the USGS said.
And the Department of Energy has moved to shore up domestic supply chains for critical battery materials, with the release of a February 24 report aimed at guiding the US toward energy independence — ‘America’s Strategy to Secure the Supply Chain for a Robust Clean Energy Transition’.
Battery Council International’s executive vice president, Roger Miksad, welcomed the US president’s call, noting that the supply chain for the US lead battery manufacturing and recycling industry is “a well-established, reliable manufacturing model for batteries that employs nearly 25,000 people with above average salaries, generating a $26.3 billion economic contribution to the national economy”.
“President Biden called for an end to relying on foreign supply chains, and we are proud of our existing domestic infrastructure that meets more than 90% of the domestic lead battery demand,” Miksad said.
“The president also said that products should be ‘made in America from beginning to end,’ and that’s the description of sustainable lead batteries.”