The US Government indicated in May it will spend $3 billion to improve EV battery production. The suggestion comes as the US auto sector aims to electrify 50% of vehicle sales by 2030.
Governments investing in electric automobiles are concerned about future mineral supply, especially battery recycling.
Experts warn of a mismatch between future production and demand for EV battery materials. Electric car sales are rising but scaling up mining is difficult: it takes 16.5 years to go from planning to production. Most EV materials are manufactured in a few countries, making the supply chain sensitive to price fluctuations and disruptions.
The Biden administration planned a $60m battery recycling scheme in May 2022. By repurposing end-of-life batteries, a parallel domestic supply chain might be developed. Allied Market Research estimates that the global EV battery recycling market would reach $2.27bn by 2025, up from $139m in 2017.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, independence and supply security have become more vital. The first halts to gas imports to Poland, Bulgaria, and Finland sent countries seeking for alternatives. Biden used the Defense Production Act a month before announcing the $3bn EV battery hike. This allows the government extra cash for mineral mining, processing, and recycling. US Geological Survey: 100% net import reliance for graphite and manganese in 2021, 75% for cobalt, roughly 50% for nickel, and 25% for lithium.
Not just the US is concerned about critical mineral supply. Clean energy technologies are the fastest-growing market for critical minerals, according to the IEA. IEA estimates that copper and rare earth element demand will rise by more than 40% in the next two decades, more than 60% for nickel and cobalt, and almost 90% for lithium. The energy transition could slow without a steady supply.
With EV batteries lasting between one and two decades, there aren’t many for recycling. EV sales will change that by 2030. According to one study, EVs sold in 2019 could generate 500,000 tons of battery waste.
While EV batteries aren’t ready for recycling yet, battery scrap can be. Manufacturer scrap is recycled and used to make new EV batteries. The lithium-ion battery recycling industry recycles battery scrap. As EV production increases to meet demand, more battery scrap can be recycled.
EV battery recycling could help solve mineral deficits and increase EVs’ sustainability. To create a circular economy for batteries, investments and recycling technologies must evolve. Before the tsunami, government policies and funding are needed to establish an EV battery recycling supply chain.