By Battery Power Online Staff
February 16, 2023 | Yesterday, Li-Bridge, a public-private alliance representing the U.S. battery ecosystem, convened by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by Argonne National Laboratory, released an action plan to accelerate the creation of a robust domestic manufacturing base and comprehensive supply chain for lithium-based batteries.
The report—“Building a Robust and Resilient U.S. Lithium Battery Supply Chain”—includes 26 recommended actions to bolster the domestic lithium battery industry. Underscoring the need to stabilize policy and spur investment, key recommendations in the report include a buying consortium for raw energy materials, a system of shared pilot lines to speed the commercialization of new battery technologies, significant additional investment in battery industry workforce training, and permitting reform.
Assessing the Battery Ecosystem
Announced in October 2021 by DOE and Argonne, Li-Bridge is spearheaded by three industry trade groups — NAATBatt International, the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology (NY-BEST) Consortium, and New Energy Nexus — with active involvement from DOE national labs and Boston Consulting Group. The first collaboration of its kind in the U.S. battery industry, Li-Bridge’s report is a result of collaboration of more than 40 companies, spanning market leaders and startups across the automotive, advanced battery, mining, and chemical, and electric utility sectors. Those organizations collectively employ more than 1.2 million people and generate approximately $900 billion in annual revenues.
The alliance developed the report to achieve several objectives, according to the document. Among them: improve investment attractiveness of U.S.-based lithium battery technology and material production through expanded and better designed supply- and demand-side incentives; support research, enable product and business model innovation, and accelerate pathways to commercialization through investments in R&D and validation & scaling capabilities; help U.S. companies secure access to critical minerals, energy material supplies (virgin and recycled, domestic-and foreign-sourced) and low-carbon infrastructure; and address know-how gaps by investing in workforce training.
The US battery industry is facing several challenges that are unlikely to be solved by the private sector alone, Li-Bridge authors contend in the report. As the top three, the authors cited insufficient returns on research investments, highly unpredictable timelines for permits and project approvals, and a lack of raw materials. “Absent government intervention, the U.S.’s high dependence on vulnerable global supply chains for lithium battery materials and components threatens U.S. economic power, national security, and climate goals,” they write.
Fueled by exponential demand, lithium-based batteries and the devices they power are major contributors to economic growth in the 21st century on par with semiconductors. According to the report, if the U.S. cannot establish a secure and stable supply chain for lithium battery technology within its borders, other countries will enjoy the economic growth and job creation that lithium battery technology will create. Today, about 76% of lithium battery cells and most cell components are made in China.
Lithium-based batteries are also critical for achieving U.S. climate objectives. The report states that without reliable access to lithium battery technology, the U.S. has no chance of meeting its 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal or ensuring an inclusive and socially responsible industry. With U.S. defense applications increasingly dependent on lithium-based batteries, the report warns of the national security risks in relying on batteries and battery components made abroad.
According to the report, the U.S. will not achieve complete lithium battery supply chain independence by 2030, but it estimates the country can capture 60% of the economic value consumed by domestic demand for lithium batteries by that year, generating $33 billion in revenues and creating 100,000 jobs.
“This report provides key insights and solutions toward the goal of establishing a resilient domestic manufacturing base and supply chain for batteries, summarizing in-depth discussions between private industry, DOE’s national labs, and federal partners,” said Argonne Laboratory Director Paul Kearns in a press release about the report. “As the Li-Bridge facilitator between private industry and the Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries, Argonne believes adoption of the report’s recommended actions can set the nation on a path for battery manufacturing and supply chain success.”
The recommendations for achieving such a resilient supply chain are arranged under the same objectives that informed the writing of the report. Thus the authors suggest production, demand, and R&D incentives as well as government procurement programs and insurance pools to improve investment attractiveness. In order to support innovation, they call for R&D investments, standards, and commercialization support. To address supply access, the authors recommend permitting reform, keeping a critical minerals database, creating a buying consortium, stockpiling and sea mining, and recalibration of trade controls. Curricula development, training support, and technical exchange could help address knowledge gaps.
The authors called on action to be immediately taken along these recommendations from US Congress, federal agencies, state and local governments, and finally industry.
“By moving forward aggressively with the recommendations Li-Bridge is advancing today, the U.S. will be well positioned to unlock the benefits batteries can provide to improve our environment and our economy,” said Dr. William Acker, Executive Director of NY-BEST and one of the four co-authors on the report.