The US should take urgent action to cut battery costs and reduce dependency on other nations for raw materials in order to expand the use of energy storage systems, legislators have been told.
George Crabtree (pictured), director at Argonne National Laboratory’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that countries such as China had “taken a very deliberate and strategic action” to establish battery supply chains with minerals such as cobalt and lithium for batteries, while the US had not.
Crabtree said the US could increase domestic mining and processing of raw materials, but warned “we need many more sources other than those that are here”.
And Crabtree said it was “critical” for the US to “find creative and innovative ways” to bring down battery costs— such as ramping up R&D on lithium-ion battery recycling. “Less than 5% of our lithium-ion batteries are recycled. In fact no one in the world has an advantage on recycling technology for that at the moment.”
Crabtree praised Argonne’s recently-launched ‘ReCell Center’ lithium-ion recycling facility and said researchers were also looking at ‘direct recycling’— taking cathodes out of used batteries, refurbishing them and putting them back in. “This is a way to get the (battery) cost down considerably,” he added.
On solid-state battery technology, Crabtree said his conservative estimate was that commercial use was at least a decade away. “Solid state is promising and it is very likely to first happen in the lab within the next five years. It will then probably take another five years to scale it up and bring it to production.”
Meanwhile, the US Department of Commerce (DoC) released a federal action plan on “critical minerals”, including vanadium, lithium and cobalt, aimed at boosting R&D, “increasing domestic activity across the supply chain and growing the American critical minerals workforce”.
The DoC’s plan is online.