DOE Releases National Blueprint for EV Success in the U.S.

A new Department of Energy report calls for greater domestic electric vehicle battery production to create a stronger and more resilient supply chain for U.S.-made electric vehicles. Shown here, workers inspect a vehicle in Volvo's South Carolina factory, which will build the next-generation electric XC90 SUV. (Volvo Car USA) 

The United States stands ready to take significant steps toward a future filled with electric vehicles (EVs). While EVs won't flood American streets tomorrow, a new report published by the Department of Energy provides some details about how the U.S. can "achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050." Part of that stated goal requires increased domestic production of electric vehicle batteries.

That's from the executive summary of the "National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries: 2021–2030," which details five main goals that should give the U.S. some security when it comes to obtaining the raw materials needed to build electric vehicles, produce them in the U.S., and then recycle or reuse the materials when an EV has reached the end of its service.

To increase lithium-based battery production in the U.S., the DOE isn't just looking for ways to source large amounts of scarce materials like cobalt and nickel out of the ground. While that is part of the plan, the DOE also believes that a "stronger, more secure and resilient supply chain" will result from finding battery technologies that don't need those components in the first place. However, until that happens, the U.S. needs to find ways to sustainably mine these materials and process them domestically, the DOE said in its report.

One option for how to acquire the materials in a "greener" way is to recycle lithium batteries. This process is costly and challenging today, the DOE admits. Still, the agency is confident that "new methods will be developed for successfully collecting, sorting, transporting, and processing recycled lithium-ion battery materials, with a focus on reducing costs."

The DOE wants to support more than just the raw materials aspect of lithium battery production. One of the DOE's goals relates to maintaining and advancing U.S. battery tech leadership through more support for research and development and related STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education programs.

The DOE's plan shows how the federal government is standing behind the auto industry's shift to EVs, and it's a necessary time to hear that message. A new report published by Third Way that discusses domestic plug-in vehicle production notes that there are 50 automotive assembly plants in the U.S., and 24 of them "currently produce or will produce an EV between now and 2025."

They range from the all-electric production facilities operated today by companies like Tesla and Nissan to the plants that will soon produce EVs or build EVs exclusively alongside plug-in hybrids or other models. Two examples are GM's upcoming Factory Zero in Michigan and Volvo's South Carolina facility, which will begin producing EV batteries and the XC90 all-electric SUV in 2022, respectively.