20 firms to share $2.8B to expand U.S. battery supply chain

The Department of Energy awarded 20 companies a total of $2.8 billion in infrastructure law funding to expand domestic manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and the electrical grid, and for materials and components currently imported from other countries. 

The companies are expected to build and expand commercial-scale facilities in 12 states to extract and process lithium, graphite and other battery materials, manufacture components, and demonstrate new approaches, including manufacturing components from recycled materials. 

The federal investment will be matched by recipients to leverage a total expected to top $9 billion. 

The largest award went to Massachusetts-based Ascend Elements to establish industrial-scale U.S. production capacity of sustainable, low-cost precursor cathode material. Its process integrates the separation of critical cathode materials from spent lithium-ion batteries (LiBs) with the production of both precursor cathode active materials (pCAM) and metal salts to support domestic production of cathode active material (CAM). 

CAM can then be used in new LiBs for electric vehicles and energy storage systems. The proposed “Apex” facility would be one of the first domestic, commercial-scale, integrated metal extraction and pCAM facilities in the United States, and would be located in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, labeled as a disadvantaged community in the southwestern part of the state. 

The federal money is expected to be matched dollar-for-dollar with a cost-share from Ascend Elements. In September, Jaguar Land Rover’s In Motion Ventures and SK ecoplant, the environmental unit of South Korean conglomerate SK Group, were among the investors putting more than $300 million into Ascend Elements. The funding was split between equity and debt and valued Ascend at more than $500 million.

A second, awardee, Group14, will receive $100 million for battery materials processing and battery manufacturing to support surging electric vehicle and energy storage demand.

Group14 launched its first commercial-scale Battery Active Materials factory (BAM-1) in Woodinville, Washington in April 2021. Engineered to produce 120 tons per year of the company’s silicon-carbon battery technology, SCC55, BAM-1 delivers to around 60 customers representing 90% of worldwide battery production. Group14 raised $400 million led by Porsche AG to fund its second U.S. BAM factory (BAM-2) to be located in Moses Lake, Washington. BAM-2 is engineered for modular manufacturing, and each module will have an annual production capacity of 2,000 tons per year, equivalent to powering at least 100,000 electric vehicles.

A third factory is slated to come online later this year in South Korea and is being developed along with SK Group. Group14 said it would use the DOE funding to build two 2,000-ton-per-year commercial manufacturing modules as part of its BAM-2 facility. 

DOE said that the U.S. depends on foreign sources for many of the processed versions of critical minerals needed to produce EV batteries. Funded projects are expected to support: 

  • Developing enough battery-grade lithium to supply approximately 2 million EVs annually
  • Developing enough battery-grade graphite to supply approximately 1.2 million EVs annually
  • Producing enough battery-grade nickel to supply approximately 400,000 EVs annually
  • Installing the first large-scale, commercial lithium electrolyte salt (LiPF6) production facility in the United States
  • Developing an electrode binder facility capable of supplying 45% of the anticipated domestic demand for binders for EV batteries in 2030 
  • Creating the first commercial scale domestic silicon oxide production facilities to supply anode materials for an estimated 600,000 EV batteries annually
  • Installing the first lithium iron phosphate cathode facility in the United States 

Doe said that virtually all lithium, graphite, battery-grade nickel, electrolyte salt, electrode binder, and iron phosphate cathode material are produced abroad, and China controls the supply chains for many of these inputs. 

Of the 20 companies selected, five will build new facilities in disadvantaged communities, and 15 in locations adjacent to disadvantaged communities. Additionally, six announced projects have established goals for hiring residents of disadvantaged communities into permanent roles, and 13 included commitments to negotiate Workforce and Community Agreements. 

The funding is the first phase of $7 billion in total provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was signed into law in 2021.  DOE’s Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains will manage the portfolio of projects with support from DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office.  

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Author: Renewable Energy World