U.S. Battery Supply Chain Starts Long Journey Home
Playing in your neighbor’s backyard is OK for a while, but you shouldn’t make it a habit.
Think about all the time and energy you’ll be spending back there, building, making, improving, and creating. The treehouse, bike ramp, fortress, and playhouse would be something to see and the envy of the neighborhood, but at the end of the day, it would still be your neighbor’s backyard. Meanwhile, your own yard would be empty.
Now, imagine your neighbor’s treehouse as lithium mines, the bike ramp as battery factories, and the fortress and playhouse as refineries and processing plants.
The United States has been playing in China’s backyard for decades, helping to build an enormous lithium-ion battery supply chain that now holds the world’s EV industry in the palm of its hand.
U.S. consumers are calling America’s lithium industry home, but our supply chain stands bare and undeveloped compared to what China has been building for three decades.
According to world market consultant BloombergNEF, China’s share of the market for lithium batteries could be as high as 80 percent, with six of the top 10 EV battery producers based in China. Hundreds of gigafactories across China are producing millions of EV batteries for the domestic market and foreign carmakers.
Chinese agreements with lithium-rich nations are making the rest of the world nervous, according to Wired.com, so the United States is now scrambling to wean itself off Chinese lithium before it’s too late.
But U.S. leaders don’t seem to have a cohesive plan for how to catch up.
The wheels are in motion, but they may not be turning in the same direction. On the one hand, there is government funding to help with battery manufacturing and lithium refining expansion. On the other hand, leaders are looking at lithium production in Canada. In the meantime, U.S. regulatory hurdles continue to stall proposed lithium mining projects across the country.
Through it all, one thing seems clear, after decades of complacency, alarm bells are finally ringing, and federal dollars are flowing in all directions as leaders hope to kickstart a domestic supply chain that was sleeping a couple of years ago.
Is there a plan? Perhaps it’s too early to know for sure, but at least we’re starting to play in our own backyard.