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DOE investing $209M in lithium battery tech

Part of larger effort to build alliances across US supply chain Metal Tech News November 2, 2021

In a move to fund research and build alliances across America's lithium battery supply chain, the U.S. Department of Energy is providing $209 million for 26 new national laboratory research projects focused on electric vehicles and the next generation of advanced batteries that will power them.

"President Biden's administration wants to make it easier for millions of American families and businesses to make the switch to electric vehicles," said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. "By developing smarter vehicle batteries, we can make these technologies cheaper and more accessible, while positioning America to be become a global leader of EV infrastructure production and clean energy jobs."

Global passenger EV sales are expected to grow by nearly 20-fold over the next two decades, from 3 million during 2020 to nearly 60 million per year by 2040.

To fully realize the climate benefits of putting these EVs on global highways will require that they be charged with electricity from low-carbon sources, which will push up the need for lithium batteries and other solutions for storing the intermittent power generated by wind and solar.

DOE's Argonne National Laboratory estimates that domestic production of lithium-ion and other lithium-based batteries must increase by 20-30 times to achieve widespread electrification in the U.S.

In addition to rapidly building the megafactories to produce the batteries, this will require a massive push to source the cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel for these batteries, as well as the capacity to upgrade these minerals and metals into battery materials.

More information on the minerals and metals needed to meet global EV and renewable energy ambitions can be read at Soaring critical energy minerals demand in the Critical Minerals Alliances magazine published by Metal Tech News in September 2021.

And, considering the rapid pace of EV adoption to meet climate goals, immediate action is required.

"New innovations are needed in all aspects of the battery supply chain to meet our goals," said Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science. "And we must do this fast - within the next decade - if we are to limit the negative impact of climate change. There is a tremendous opportunity to create the industry of the future along with well-paying jobs across skill levels."

The U.S., however, currently relies heavily on importing advanced battery components from abroad, which exposes the nation to supply chain vulnerabilities that threaten to disrupt the availability and cost of these technologies.

Srinivasan says the challenges to meeting America's EV ambitions in will require collaboration across the entire government-private sector-academia landscape.

To help foster such alliances, Argonne National Laboratory has introduced Li-Bridge, a new public-private partnership to bridge gaps in the domestic lithium battery supply chain.

"Argonne has a worldwide reputation for research and development across the battery supply chain and for moving innovations from the lab to manufacturing and the market," said Argonne Laboratory Director Paul Kearns. "This leadership role makes Argonne ideally suited to lead the coordination of this public-private alliance and pull the ecosystem together, working in collaboration across the DOE lab complex."

Solid battery projects

The $209 million investment announced by DOE on Oct. 27 will go to eight national labs that are working with private sector and university partners on 26 projects focused on making the U.S. more self-reliant when it comes to advanced batteries.

These research projects have four primary goals:

Significantly reduce the cost and size of next generation battery technology.

Advance ultrafast charging that allows EV batteries to be fully charged in less than 15-minutes.

Mitigate potential impacts caused by tens of millions of EVs plugging into the nation's electrical grid.

Streamline vehicle-to-vehicle communications and controls that reduce energy use and emissions.

More than half of the projects are focused on various solid state lithium battery technologies, which show promise in being a more energy dense, faster charging, and safer alternative to the lithium-ion batteries currently being used to power EVs.

"These projects are exactly the type of research the federal government should invest in to decarbonize our energy system, modernize our infrastructure, support the growing domestic clean energy industries, and combat climate change," said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado is working on three of the DOE funded projects – low-pressure, all-solid-state lithium battery cells; fast charging solutions; addressing technical barriers to wide-scale EV adoption and their integration into the electric grid in the U.S.

"We need to act fast to electrify the transportation sector, strengthen our domestic manufacturing, and keep jobs at home by building the vehicles of the future and the batteries that support them here in America," said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan.

Building bridges

To realize the sublime visions of every American driving a U.S.-made EV rapidly charged with low-carbon electricity will require a concerted effort across the entire lithium battery-EV-renewable energy ecosystem.

Li-Bridge, which was introduced in conjunction with the DOE funding, will help build these alliances by bringing key stakeholders together to improve the lithium battery supply chain in a first-of-its-kind collaboration in the U.S. battery industry.

"The new Li-Bridge alliance announced today is a major step forward in developing and sustaining a robust, domestic supply chain for batteries, which will be critical to vehicle electrification," said Michael Berube, deputy assistant secretary for sustainable transportation at DOE.

As a global leader in energy storage research and development, Argonne will serve as the main link between the private sector, the network of national laboratories, and the Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries, which is made up of federal agencies committed to ensuring a domestic supply of lithium batteries.

In June, this consortium published the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries, which lays out five primary goals to guide federal agency collaboration on developing a domestic lithium-battery:

Secure access to raw and refined materials and discover alternates for critical minerals for commercial and defense applications.

Support the growth of U.S. materials-processing base to meet domestic battery manufacturing demand.

Stimulate U.S. electrode, cell, and pack manufacturing sectors.

Enable U.S. end-of-use reuse and critical materials recycling.

Maintain and advance U.S. battery technology leadership by supporting research and development, educations, and workforce development.

"Achieving the lofty targets of the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries will require alignment between the federal government, private industry and research institutions working hand-in-hand to develop the batteries of the future, mass produce them, establish a resilient supply chain, and do this all at record speed," said Srinivasan.

To help bridge the government-private sector divide, Argonne is forging alliances with three U.S.-based organizations – NAATBatt International, New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, and New Energy Nexus – that represent more than 600 industry stakeholders across the high-capacity battery ecosystem.

"While the U.S. has all the pieces to achieve these goals, they are fragmented. The Li-Bridge alliance will bring these pieces into a cohesive whole," Srinivasan said.

To help accomplish this, Li-Bridge will host a series of national forums that will help foster alliances and identify opportunities and challenges across the entire lithium battery supply chain.

Further insights into the importance of building alliances in order to achieve EV and renewable energy ambitions can be read at Forging Critical Minerals Alliances in the Critical Minerals Alliances magazine published by Metal Tech News in September 2021.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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