U.S. EV Battery Supply Chain Investment Hits $24 Billion

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) ranked the United States second in its 2021projections for the Global Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain Ranking.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has ranked the United States second in its 2021 and 2026 projections for its Global Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain Ranking.  

America is seeing an outbreak of investment into electric vehicle and battery production, helping to push it up in the rankings.

According to Reuters, electric vehicle and battery manufacturers are planning to spend nearly $24 billion in new factories across the southern U.S

Ford and battery supplier SK Innovation recently announced an investment of more than $11.4 billion in new U.S. facilities, the largest investment to date.

Around $5.6 billion of Ford’s investment with SK will go to a facility called Blue Oval City in Stanton, Tennessee, and $5.8 billion for two factories in Kentucky.  

The three new plants will produce 129-gigawatt hours a year of U.S. production capacity for Ford, enough to power one million electric vehicles annually, according to Ford representatives. This amounts to more than half of the EV production capacity Ford expects to have globally by 2030.

Ford’s investment is the largest, but it is just one of the many planned investments into the US: 

  • Lucid Motors opened a $300-million assembly plant for electric vehicles in Arizona. 

  • Nikola is planning a $600-million facility to build fuel-cell electric trucks in Arizona.

  • Tesla is nearing completion of its $1.1-billion assembly and battery plant near Austin and has said it will move its corporate headquarters from California to Texas.

  • Volkswagen invested another $800 million in its Tennessee EV plant.

  • General Motors is investing $4.3 billion alongside LG Energy Solution, a unit of LG Chem, to build an electric vehicle assembly plant and battery plant in Tennessee. 

  • Toyota and Mazda have opened a $2.3-billion plant near Huntsville, Alabama.

  • SKI is investing $2.6 billion in two battery plants in Commerce in Georgia, with the first slated to open in 2022.

  • California-headquartered startup Canoo plans to build a $500-million plant in Oklahoma, to assemble electric vehicles, starting in 2023.

Korea-based SK Innovation expects the U.S. vehicle industry to have a battery supply shortage until 2025 because of the time it takes to build production facilities.  

BNEF’s experts point out that America has the ingredients needed for a domestic lithium-ion battery value chain but this observation misses that the U.S. is still slow to address its small lithium production from mines. 

Although the U.S. is very rich in underground lithium resources, it currently mines and processes only about 1% of annual global lithium production.

In order to build the batteries, the U.S. will need 500,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent by 2030, according to research by RK Equity.

The US Bureau of Land Management approved a two-square-mile open-pit mine known as the Thacker Pass in Nevada. It will be the nation’s largest source of lithium supply generating 60,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium carbonate annually.

Automakers are looking into early-stage startups for lithium production, primarily from brine operations. GM invested in Controlled Thermal Resources, a company that plans to extract lithium from the Salton Sea geothermal field in California. 

BMW recently announced an investment in American lithium technology startup Lilac Solutions that seeks to extract lithium from saltwater brines. 

According to Reuters, BMW buys lithium from China's Ganfeng Lithium and other traditional lithium producers, but it sees Lilac's technology as a way to boost global lithium production. 

However, currently, most of the raw lithium used in the U.S. comes from Latin America or Australia, and most of it is processed and turned into battery cells in China and other Asian countries.

China's huge chemical industry offers low-cost lithium and unearths about 10% and processes about two-thirds of what is mined.

According to BNEF, China hosts 80% of all battery cell manufacturing capacity, with capacity expected to more than double to over two terawatt-hours, enough capacity for more than 20 million electric vehicles in the next five years.

Chinese firms have been securing strategic materials in South America in particular as they seek continued dominance in the EV supply chain. 

With $24 billion of investment in the U.S. domestic battery supply chain pipeline, the U.S. will be joining the race to secure raw supplies of lithium to feed its young and growing EV and battery manufacturing supply chain.

As a country, the US has the second-largest EV market, after China.

If forecasts for EV usage are accurate, along with the billions of dollars car companies are investing into EV development and production then lithium demand could increase 10-fold over the next decade.

There are 170 lithium technical reports from over 80 companies on Prospector Portal.

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