Last week, two influential Democratic US senators called on the Energy Department to take action to strengthen US electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing.
The senators, Mark Warner and Joe Manchin, referred to expert analyses indicating that the US is “10 to 20 years” behind China in its EV battery manufacturing capabilities.
Warner and Manchin expressed concerns about China’s dominance in battery technology and its control over the global supply chain. They emphasized the need for the US to become a leader in battery manufacturing and secure the supply chains for necessary materials.
The senators referred to China’s recent export restrictions on graphite, a critical component of battery anodes, as an example. In October, China began requiring special export permits for three categories of graphite.
The move came several years after America slapped a 25% tariff on Chinese-made EVs. The tariff, originally imposed in 2018 by President Trump, has been extended by President Biden.
According to Autoblog, China currently accounts for over 75% of battery cell production. The country dominates the global EV battery supply chain, including graphite production. In contrast, the US produced less than 10% of lithium-ion batteries in 2022.
If the US remains dependent on China for battery raw materials like graphite, it may become impossible for the US to completely switch to electric cars. This is particularly true if trade tensions intensify.
No graphite mining has occurred in the United States for decades. In 2022, a graphite deposit of over 10 million metric tons was discovered north of Nome, Alaska. However, mining may be delayed due to significant opposition from local Indigenous tribes.
Warner and Manchin called for a briefing on ongoing research and development of next-generation battery technologies. They also highlighted the importance of lithium-ion batteries for various military systems, including radio, lasers, and directed energy weapons.
The senators proposed close coordination with the Department of Defense and other national security agencies to support the development of innovative, American-made energy storage technologies.
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