May 24, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Industry heavyweights unite in U.S. battery push

Illustration of a bald eagle clutching a lightning bolt in its talons. 

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Auto giants are joining with battery companies, EV startups and lithium producers in a new coalition seeking stronger federal support for building a large U.S. battery supply chain.

Driving the news: The Coalition for American Battery Independence (CABI) launches Tuesday.

  • Members include General Motors, Ford, Panasonic, Tesla, Form Energy, Albemarle, Proterra and the Zero Emission Transportation Association.
  • The group, run via the lobbying firm Boundary Stone Partners, targets batteries for electric vehicles and storage.
  • The goal: cohesive support for everything from raw materials processing and refining to component manufacturing to making battery packs.

Why it matters: Battery demand is slated to surge in coming years and decades.

  • There's intense global competition to build supply chains (and expand and diversify mining, a challenge that's not a current CABI focus).
  • It's "critically imperative for our energy and climate security to re-shore these battery materials and manufacturing capacity," CABI said.

The big picture: The Biden administration is trying to boost the supply chain with steps like Energy Department grants and loan guarantees.

  • But Mike Carr of Boundary Stone — which represents several CABI members — said more holistic policies are needed.
  • The group will initially work behind the scenes with policymakers, he said.
  • It wants Congress to pass tax incentives for manufacturing and processing.
  • Executive support could include use of the Defense Production Act and other purchasing authorities, Carr said.

Catch up fast: While multiple U.S. battery projects are planned, the U.S. now has a fairly small piece of the industry.

  • China produces three-fourths of lithium-ion batteries; has by far the largest cathode and anode production; and over half of lithium, cobalt and graphite processing and refining capacity, per the International Energy Agency.
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