Biden will push for more US EV battery recycling, address supply shortages

The Biden administration will emphasize battery recycling as part of its electric-car plans, aiming to address supply issues, Reuters reported Friday.

The recycling push is the result of a 100-day review of gaps in the supply chain of key areas, including metals used in batteries for EVs and consumer electronics, the report said. The administration is seeking not only to expand EV adoption, but to also create a more robust domestic supply chain for key materials.

Recycling is seen as a way to help achieve those goals with less reliance on expanded domestic mining, which faces regulatory hurdles and environmentalist opposition, the report said. The administration is also researching ways to reduce metal usage in batteries, according to the report.

Volkswagen battery recycling

Volkswagen battery recycling

Many automakers have announced battery-recycling plans, but not all in the United States. However, if the Biden administration adopts a recycling plan, it would be the first time this has been attempted by the government, on a national level.

Automaker recycling plans announced so far are generally keyed to anticipated expansions in EV production. As it launches a family of mass-market EVs based on its MEB platform, Volkswagen has said it will recover up to 95% of raw materials, with eventual plans to establish a recycling facility in the U.S.

General Motors recently made plans with an official recycler, based in Canada, for its Ultium batteries. The first vehicle to use these batteries will be the 2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup truck, which is scheduled to start production later this year.

Volkswagen battery recycling

Volkswagen battery recycling

BMW in 2018 announced a European-market battery-recycling deal with Belgian firm Umicore, with the goal of recovering materials from old battery packs and putting them directly into new packs manufactured by Swedish battery firm Northvolt.

The following year, Tesla announced plans for a battery-recycling center at its Nevada “Gigafactory,” with plans to recover batteries from both customer cars and Tesla’s own research and development. Meanwhile, former Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel’s Redwood Materials is shaping up to be one of the U.S. contenders for building a business around battery recycling.

Seven years ago we reported that there was not yet a business model for recycling EV batteries. At the time, materials were inexpensive enough that it didn’t really pay to recycle old batteries. But much has changed since then.

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