Visualizing America’s Electric Vehicle Future
The U.S. is accelerating the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) to address climate change. However, obtaining the minerals and metals needed for electric vehicle batteries remains a challenge.
In this infographic from Talon Metals and Li-Cycle, we examine the country’s strategy for producing cars, batteries and key parts in the United States.
Then we look at how that strategy can be fueled by domestic mining and battery recycling.
Gasoline-powered cars are one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide pollution , leading to a climate crisis. As a result, the Biden administration has set a goal that electric cars will account for 50% of all new car sales in the U.S. by 2030. Today, less than 1% of the 250 million vehicles in the country are electric.
In November 2021, Congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure agreement that includes:
Replacing the state’s fleet of 650,000 vehicles with electric vehicles.
Electrifying 20 percent of the nation’s 500,000 school buses.
An investment of $7.5 billion to create a network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers across the country.
The idea also has popular support. According to a poll , 55% of U.S. voters support requiring that all new cars sold in their state be electric starting in 2030.
However, increased sales of electric cars are already driving demand for battery metals such as nickel, lithium and copper, which could lead to shortages of these key raw materials. So, does the U.S. have the raw materials needed to meet this growing demand?
The U.S. is currently dependent on imports because much of the battery supply chain has been taken over by China. Similarly, some of the key metals for electric vehicles are currently mined in countries with low labor standards and high CO 2 emissions.
Nickel in the land of opportunity
The Biden administration’s 100-day review of critical supply chains recommended that the government prioritize investment in nickel processing capacity .
Today, the only operating nickel mine in the United States, Eagle Mine in Michigan, sends its concentrates overseas for processing and is scheduled to close in 2025.
To fill the supply gap, Talon Metals is developing the Tamarack Nickel project in Minnesota, the only high-grade nickel mine in the country under development. Tesla recently signed an agreement to buy 75,000 metric tons of nickel in concentrate from Tamarack.
Because the mine could take many years to develop and build, recycling is considered an important source of raw materials for electric cars.
The role of battery recycling
Battery recycling could provide up to 30 percent of nickel and 80 percent of cobalt use in electric vehicles by the end of the decade.
The bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill already allocates $6 billion to develop battery recycling capacity in the United States.
By 2030, the U.S. alone is projected to produce more than 218,000 tons of scrap electric vehicle batteries and 313,000 tons of end-of-life electric vehicle batteries each year, offering ample opportunity for recycling. Li-Cycle, North America’s leading recycler of lithium-ion batteries, can currently recycle up to 10,000 tons of battery material per year, and that capacity will grow to 30,000 tons by the end of 2022 .
Li-Cycle is also building a hydrometallurgy center in Rochester, N.Y., that will process up to 225,000 electric car batteries annually into lithium, nickel and cobalt for batteries when it becomes operational in 2023.
The Future of America’s Electric Cars
According to President Biden, the future of the automobile industry “is electric, and there is no turning back” . Sales of electric vehicles in the U.S. are expected to grow from about 500,000 vehicles in 2021 to more than 4 million in 2030.
As government support grows and electric cars become more popular with consumers, securing the supplies needed for the electric car revolution will remain a top priority for the country.
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