EV Plans Hinge on Made-in-America Batteries

February 8, 2023

Companies and the U.S. government are shelling out billions of dollars to establish a supply chain for batteries in North America, a manufacturing effort that is critical to the auto industry’s long-range plans to put more electric vehicles on the road.

Batteries are the most expensive component in an electric vehicle, accounting for about one-third of its cost, reports The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 7, 2023).

Lithium, produced at this site in Nevada, is among the minerals that are crucial battery components.

American electric-car makers traditionally haven’t assembled batteries themselves. They rely on a far-flung supply chain. The raw materials are mined primarily in countries such as Australia, China, Congo and Indonesia. Chemical processing, battery components and assembly are mostly done by Chinese companies.

A recently passed law provides incentives for North American-built batteries and penalizes car companies that source batteries abroad, is spurring a wave of new projects in the U.S.—from cell-making factories to new ventures to mine the raw materials.

The U.S. also announced awards totaling $2.8 billion to about 20 companies in more than 10 states to help expand domestic manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles and the electrical grid. The money will go to projects that process lithium, graphite and other battery materials, manufacture components and demonstrate new approaches, such as producing components from recycled materials. The projects will specialize in building up the supply of particular materials and components, with a goal of lowering U.S. battery manufacturers’ reliance on foreign supply chains.

Assembling the battery cells that are embedded in vehicles is only one part of a process that typically involves multiple companies and can be geographically dispersed across continents. In the first step, mining companies extract raw materials such as lithium, nickel and other minerals, which have risen in value as demand for green energy grows. Then, other companies—often in other countries—process the minerals. Next, other specialized companies build components such as anodes, cathodes, separators and electrolytes. A fourth step involves the production of battery cells that house the components, including electronics and sensors that help manage a battery. These specialized companies that make components such as anodes and cathodes are crucial to the industry’s growth in the U.S.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

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