How the U.S. hopes to control EV infrastructure, range, cost

Can federal cash rein in EV range, cost, recycling concerns?

The whole EV landscape is getting an adoption boost courtesy of government incentives out the wazoo. But is it enough?

You can’t deny that this administration is making huge strides when it comes to the advancement of electrification adoption in the U.S. Everything from electric cars to electric buses to electric trucks are getting an adoption boost courtesy of government incentives out the yin-yang. Don’t worry, we’re not getting political – instead, I want to take a few minutes to look at a few of the ways the feds have put their money where their mouth is in recent months to move the EV needle.

Here’s a recent big one: The U.S. Department of Energy is giving away $13 billion to expand and modernize the nation’s electric grid.

Infrastructure may be the No. 1 anti-EV sentiment out there – well, maybe tied with cost and recycling and range anxiety… No matter – Independent estimates indicate that the U.S. needs to expand its electricity transmission systems by 60% by 2030 and may need to TRIPLE current capacity by 2050 to meet increasing power demands for EVs and other high electric outputs, like heat.

Via various programs and grants, the feds hope this initiative will provide the funds needed to do things like construct high-capacity transmission lines, increase the capacity of already planned lines, and enhance our current electric grid’s resilience and reliability. Recent studies have found that 70% of the U.S. grid’s transmission lines and power transformers are over 25 years old, and… that’s not good. I think we can agree on that.

Another one is that the Department of Energy is throwing $74 million toward 10 EV battery recycling projects.

Battery recycling! Yeah, it’s a problem, and a big deal. These things are dangerous when they just sit around, and they’re very difficult to dispose of in any sort of cost-effective way. And, when you consider that since President Biden took office, more than 1.2 million EVs have been sold in America, which is more than TRIPLE the number of EVs on the road before he took office. So, we’re going to have a pile of problem batteries to deal with before we know it.

Also consider that demand for critical battery minerals like lithium and graphite are projected to increase by as much as 4,000% in the coming decades. To help with that, this latest round of EV funding specifically targets and supports the recycling and reuse segment of the domestic battery supply chain.

Projects funded with this cash will hopefully lead to scaling up second-use research to integrate end-of-life EV batteries into new applications. Think stationary energy storage systems and projects that focus on separating or reintegrating lithium-ion battery materials.

OK, time for one more?

If you want to advance electrification, might as well team up with somebody that has a proven track record of knowing what they’re doing. That’s why the Department of Energy is giving GM a $2.5 billion dollar loan to help build three new lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facilities in Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan.

Now, Ultium Cells, a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution, will manage battery cell production at the three facilities. Ultium Cells must use the money to manufacture large format, pouch-type cells that use a special chemistry to deliver more range at less cost.

So, infrastructure, recycling, cost, range anxiety… the feds are hitting them all. What does this mean for EVs in 2023? Give me a year or so, I’ll let you know.

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