$3 billion to improve battery production

On Monday, May 2, the United States Department of Energy announced $3.1 billion in funding to improve domestic production of high-capacity batteries, reports Gizmodo. Joe Biden wants to strengthen the country’s independence in the sector with the aim of democratizing electric vehicles. The exploitation of rare earths, necessary for the manufacture of batteries, represents the main challenge.

80% of batteries come from China

This project is part of the infrastructure modernization plan signed in 2021 by Biden. In addition to the 3.1 billion in funding, there will be 60 million dollars which will be allocated to research to improve the recycling of batteries. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the funding will be used to ” improving battery technology and storage capacity that will help reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. »

The pursuit of all-electric in the automotive sector worries about a risk of battery shortage, this is for example the case of Volvo which is not unaware of this danger. Despite these concerns, the US goal is clear: by 2030 the Biden administration wants more than half of the cars sold in its territory to be electric. For these cars, lithium-ion batteries are needed, 80% of which come from China.

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This funding comes in response to the increase in the price of fossil fuels and to avoid the consequences of climate change. However, the manufacture of batteries requires minerals and rare earths whose extraction and refining are at the origin of ecological and economic problems.

80% of rare earth metals are processed and refined in China before being imported into the United States. The funding is expected to find new sources of nickel, graphite, lithium, cobalt and rare earths to enable the batteries to be manufactured more “ respectful and sustainable according to the Department of Energy.

Increasingly rare materials

These materials are rare and will become even more so in the future. A report by the International Energy Agency published in 2021 notes that in the next ten years, the number of materials will have to increase sixfold to meet the growing demand for batteries. The demand for graphite will be 25 times greater in the next twenty years.

However, the US government explains that the funding should not be used to create new mining operations. Its main objective is to improve the recovery and processing of raw materials. A large part of the sum will be used to modernize and expand the infrastructure needed to manufacture and recycle batteries.

The Congo alone accounts for 70% of cobalt production in the world and China exercises almost total control over the exploitation of the precious ore, essential for the manufacture of batteries. The United States will have to fight against Chinese domination if they intend to strengthen their independence in this sector. Recycling is unlikely to be the long-term solution to the material scarcity problem.

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