U.S. automakers are setting out to greatly expand battery manufacturing on their home turf as they accelerate electric vehicle production in the coming decades. Over less than two years, they have announced plans to build at least 10 battery cell plants in North America through 2026.
Today, the metals for EV battery cells are largely sourced in other parts of the world. As battery production continues to expand in North America, so too will the sourcing and processing of key metals. Automakers and battery manufacturers are beginning to establish sites in North America to extract these materials. Local sites are essential to reducing the carbon footprint of EV manufacturing and avoiding geopolitical risk, experts say.
"There must be nearby sources," said Manish Chawla, IBM's global general manager for the industrial sector. "The pandemic has clarified everybody's mindset that you don't go for the cheapest source of raw material or of a component. You look at the resilience of your supply chains and the proximity. That's driving far more capital being invested."
For lithium extraction, Controlled Thermal Resources and NeoLith Energy are beginning projects in California and Nevada. But today, the vast majority of the lithium used for batteries is sourced in South America, Australia and China, with nearly all of the processing done in China.