The EV Battery Provide Chain Defined



What are the issues within the EV battery provide chain and the way can we enhance it?

The transportation sector is the most important emitter of greenhouse gases within the US economic system, and about half its emissions come from light-duty automobiles alone. To keep away from the disastrous results of a 1.5°C improve in world temperatures, we might want to exchange the greater than 300 million inside combustion engine (ICE) automobiles at the moment on the street with electrical automobiles (EVs).

As we speak, there are about 2.5 million EVs on US roads. This quantity might want to improve to 44 million by 2030 if we’re to achieve net-zero emissions. Each considered one of these 44 million vehicles will must be powered by an electrical battery produced in a protracted, advanced course of involving mining, refining, manufacturing, and meeting.

Whereas analysis findings predicting anticipated development in EV demand varies, there may be consensus that it’s increasing and can proceed to take action: S&P International Mobility forecasts electrical automobile gross sales in the US alone may attain 40% of whole passenger automobile gross sales by 2030, and extra optimistic projections foresee electrical automobile gross sales surpassing 50% by 2030.

To fulfill this growing demand for EVs, governments, policymakers, and private and non-private sectors around the globe might want to strengthen the worldwide EV battery provide chain.

In recent times, billions of {dollars} have been invested within the EV battery provide chain for a lot of causes. Past addressing local weather change and assembly rising demand for EVs, this elevated funding is supposed to:

  • Present financial alternative and create new jobs
  • Improve the resilience of the worldwide provide chain by growing the variety of international locations concerned
  • Handle human rights and environmental abuses related to the provision chain
  • Adjust to laws just like the Inflation Discount Act, which requires that an elevated proportion of EV battery provide chain actions happen in North America to be eligible for sure tax credit

By offering this overview of the EV battery provide chain, the challenges it faces, and alternatives to enhance it, we hope to present native and nationwide governments, policymakers, and personal and public sector actors a starting-point useful resource they’ll use to additional discover these vital points. For extra data on EV batteries and the way they work, learn “EV Batteries 101: The Fundamentals.”

ev battery lifecycle graphic

What Is The EV Battery Provide Chain?

The time period provide chain describes the method by which a product is made and delivered to a client.

The steps concerned in producing and utilizing an EV battery fall into 4 common classes:

  • Upstream: Mines extract uncooked supplies; for batteries, these uncooked supplies sometimes comprise lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite.
  • Midstream: Processors and refiners purify the uncooked supplies, then use them to create cathode and anode energetic battery supplies; commodities merchants purchase and promote uncooked supplies to corporations that produce battery cells.
  • Downstream: Battery producers assemble the battery cells into modules after which pack and promote them to automakers, who place the completed batteries in EVs. Some automakers like Ford and Stellantis have fashioned partnerships with battery producers to provide their very own batteries for the automobiles they promote.
  • Finish of Life: When batteries not serve their authentic function, they are often reused or recycled.

Offering Financial Alternatives & Creating New Jobs

Home investments to enhance the EV battery provide chain may have a spread of financial implications.

The transition to EVs represents a serious disruption to the automotive workforce, each by way of its general measurement and its geographic distribution across the nation. Presently, greater than 10 million individuals work within the US automotive business. Since EVs are a lot easier to provide than ICE automobiles, the automotive business might have fewer employees sooner or later.

Nonetheless, with general automobile gross sales declining after a peak in 2017, EVs are the one development space within the automotive market, which means all future job development within the business will seemingly be in EV manufacturing and its provide chain. These new EV jobs is not going to essentially be in states and areas the place ICE manufacturing jobs are at the moment. That being stated, disruptions associated to EVs can have all kinds of financial advantages once they result in elevated entrepreneurship pathways and the event of recent industries round novel applied sciences. The expansion of Tesla, Rivian, and a spread of recent battery producers illustrates how this know-how transition has inspired startups to compete with legacy gamers, creating new competitors and incentives to innovate within the market. The transition to EVs is prone to proceed to foster innovation in one of the crucial vital sectors of the US economic system, creating quite a few productiveness ripple results all through the nation.

Localizing the EV battery provide chain additionally brings upstream funding alternatives, since batteries require a spread of vital minerals, processing amenities, and part half manufacturing. For instance, in simply the few quick months because the Inflation Discount Act was handed, the US has seen greater than $40 billion value of recent funding bulletins throughout the battery provide chain. These investments may also help spur native financial growth by supporting surrounding industries, fostering spinoff entrepreneurship, and contributing to the event of business clusters that enhance productiveness and development.

Rising The Resilience Of The International EV Battery Provide Chain

The EV battery provide chain is dispersed around the globe — battery minerals journey a median of fifty,000 miles from extraction to battery cell manufacturing. On the similar time, a lot of the mineral provide is concentrated in only a few international locations. This dispersion and focus make the worldwide provide chain susceptible to disruptions, together with:

  • Excessive climate (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes that influence power inputs and disrupt infrastructure like pipelines and delivery routes)
  • Geopolitics (e.g., the battle between Russia and Ukraine)
  • Altering commerce alliances between international locations or areas
  • Company consolidation: As we speak, when one of many many corporations concerned within the battery provide chain experiences a disruption, others are affected. As EV demand rises, it’s seemingly that there shall be a number of huge gamers that may oversee extra components of the method. If one (or extra) of those corporations expertise disruptions, the consequences shall be higher.
  • A change in supplies wanted as a result of new applied sciences: Battery chemistries and designs are altering rapidly; lots of them use different and extra considerable supplies. These modifications will have an effect on the provision chain community and the international locations and firms concerned.

These disruptions may end up in bottlenecks and negatively have an effect on the remainder of the battery provide chain; they’ll additionally influence economies, trigger delays for suppliers, improve transportation prices, pressure employers to chop jobs, discourage funding, and hinder transportation decarbonization.

The International EV Battery Provide Chain As we speak

China at the moment dominates the provision chain. As broader geopolitical points have an effect on financial and commerce relationships, the soundness of the worldwide provide chain is more and more in danger when extracting, refining, processing, and assembling an outsized share of EV battery parts happens in any single nation.

A number of critics have described US efforts to extend home EV battery provide chain capability as an try and “de-couple” from China, which is an oversimplification. A extra correct evaluation is offered by US Commerce Consultant Katherine Tai, who labels the present administration’s method “de-risking.” As the marketplace for EV batteries and different superior power applied sciences expands, there shall be loads of development alternatives for all producing nations, at the same time as that manufacturing capability diversifies.

It is very important acknowledge that strengthening the EV battery provide chain is just not a zero-sum recreation with winners and losers. Creating a strong provide chain will profit individuals around the globe by offering financial alternative, creating jobs, and making it simpler for extra individuals to buy EVs.

We will considerably bolster EV battery provide chains by advancing partnerships with different international locations, enhancing laws, devoting extra assets to home battery manufacturing, and growing battery circularity.

Addressing Human Rights & Environmental Abuses

World wide, the upstream portion of the EV battery provide chain (mining) is linked to human rights abuses, such because the use of kid and compelled labor. Many mines lack primary employee security measures — endangering employees’ lives — and extraction typically comes with an environmental price. Mining practices typically trigger floor and groundwater depletion, soil contamination, biodiversity loss, and different detrimental penalties that may final for hundreds of years.

As we speak, few automakers and battery producers know the place their battery minerals come from and the way they’re extracted (though we’ve got the ability to extend provide chain transparency with extra funding). In consequence, human rights abuses and environmental damages typically go undetected. A rising coalition of stakeholders are engaged on these points, together with activists and advocates, policymakers, regulators, these within the automotive business, and others. Many within the extractive business have additionally expressed a need to deal with these points. You may learn extra about what’s being carried out to deal with human rights and environmental abuses within the Upstream part beneath.

Complying With Laws

The US authorities is investing in strengthening EV battery provide chains utilizing a wide range of legislative instruments:

The Infrastructure Funding & Jobs Act

Handed in November 2021, the Infrastructure Funding and Jobs Act offers funding for the packages and initiatives listed beneath, that are designed to deal with the above points.

The CHIPS and Science Act

Handed in August 2022, the CHIPS and Science Act will fund American semiconductor analysis, growth, and manufacturing, which is able to assist lower US reliance on China for the semiconductors utilized in EVs and plenty of different applied sciences. Two packages will fund analysis and growth in superior manufacturing and supplies with a complete of $2 billion.

The Inflation Discount Act

Handed in August 2022, the Inflation Discount Act focuses on enhancing clear power manufacturing and recycling; industrial decarbonization; vital supplies processing, refining, and recycling; incentivizing home manufacturing; enhancing provide chains; and electrifying heavy-duty automobiles. The Act:

Understanding how the EV battery provide chain works, and the challenges it faces, will assist us make efficient insurance policies to enhance it and cut back the harms related to it.


Mines extract uncooked supplies; for batteries, these uncooked supplies sometimes comprise lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite.

The “upstream” portion of the EV battery provide chain, which refers back to the extraction of the minerals wanted to construct batteries, has garnered appreciable consideration, and for good purpose.

Many fear that we received’t extract these minerals rapidly sufficient to fulfill rising demand, which may result in rising costs for shoppers and sluggish EV adoption. There’s additionally concern that the US is lacking out on financial alternatives, new jobs, and an opportunity to strengthen the provision chain.

Extra importantly, mining is routinely related to human rights abuses and environmental degradation. Sure mines have used or are utilizing little one and/or pressured labor to extract the minerals utilized in EV batteries; there are additionally many documented instances displaying the devastating results of mining on native communities and environments.

The world over, there may be specific concern in regards to the detrimental impacts of recent extractive developments on Indigenous communities. In the US, the vast majority of nickel, copper, lithium, and cobalt reserves lie inside 35 miles of Indian Nation.

Beneath we clarify the steps concerned within the upstream portion of the EV battery provide chain, reply 5 questions in regards to the challenges going through the mining business, and describe what’s being carried out to deal with the business’s detrimental impacts.

What Is The “Upstream” Portion Of The EV Battery Provide Chain?

Within the upstream portion of the provision chain, mines extract uncooked supplies; for batteries, these uncooked supplies sometimes comprise lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite.

Due to the power required to extract and refine these battery minerals, EV manufacturing typically emits extra greenhouse gases per automobile than vehicles powered by fossil fuels. Nonetheless, the common EV makes up for this distinction in lower than two years. Over a typical automobile’s lifetime, EVs produce considerably much less emissions than conventional automobiles, making them a necessary instrument to fight local weather change.

Lithium-ion batteries, the type that energy nearly all EVs, use 5 “vital minerals”: lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite.

The Power Act of 2020 defines vital minerals as a “non-fuel mineral or mineral materials important to the financial or nationwide safety of the U.S. and which has a provide chain susceptible to disruption.” There are round 35 minerals categorized as vital.

Crucial minerals are discovered internationally, however most economically viable deposits are present in only some locations. For example, a lot of the world’s cobalt is positioned within the Democratic Republic of the Congo whereas lithium is concentrated in South America and Australia. On account of this geographic variety, the provision chain for electrical automobiles is actually world.

Do We Have Sufficient Minerals To Make The EV Batteries We Will Want?

Sure. Whereas demand for these minerals is already excessive and anticipated to develop considerably within the coming years, there are sufficient minerals to fulfill at the moment and tomorrow’s EV wants.

The issue is that the upstream portion of the provision chain is unprepared to fulfill this demand. As we speak, though there are sufficient minerals, there should not sufficient working mines.

Since it might take years to determine a mine, we have to transfer in a short time to make sure that provide can meet rising demand whereas additionally respecting the expressed wants of native communities. This work would require vital funding to take action: in the US alone, we’ll want to take a position $175 billion within the subsequent two or three years to match China’s battery manufacturing.

How Do Mining Practices Contribute To Human & Environmental Injustice?

As we speak’s mining practices can contain:

Baby and/or pressured labor: In response to the Worldwide Labor Group, greater than 1 million kids are engaged in little one labor in mines and quarries; many obtain little to no pay. These practices are a type of trendy slavery.

Tailings storage are one other type of mine waste that harms native environments and residents. As soon as a mineral has been extracted from the ore, the remainder of the ore is disposed of. These leftovers are referred to as tailings and are normally dumped in above-ground ponds held collectively by humanmade dams. When these dams collapse, they’ll trigger lethal mudslides that destroy farmlands and close by cities. Collapses may also pollute our bodies of water that native communities depend on for meals, agriculture, and earnings. Since 1915, greater than 250 tailings dam failures have been recorded around the globe, killing 2,650 individuals. In 2019, a single dam failure at a mine in Brazil claimed the lives of 270 individuals in a tragic on the spot.

Water air pollution and depletion: Drilling and excavation can contaminate floor water and groundwater reserves. As Earthworks notes, many mines within the US have traditionally failed to manage their wastewater, which has led to polluted consuming water, hurt to native habitats and agriculture, and detrimental public well being impacts. Globally, mines dump greater than 200 million tons of mining waste immediately into lakes, rivers, and oceans yearly. Mining additionally requires enormous quantities of water; greater than 2 million liters of water are wanted to provide one ton of lithium. As a result of mining typically happens in arid and semi-arid areas, this could critically stress native water provides for communities and ecosystems.

Gender discrimination throughout the mining business: Regardless of ladies’s vital contributions to mining, their work has been much less valued and fewer protected than that of males, in response to the Worldwide Labour Group, which additionally notes that in large-scale mining operations, ladies hardly ever make up greater than 10 % of mineworkers. In lots of international locations ladies are expressly prohibited by regulation from holding sure positions at mines.

What Are The Elements That Contribute To Human & Environmental Injustice?

There are lots of elements that contribute to human rights abuses and environmental degradation, together with:

Some mineral reserves are in conflict-affected and high-risk areas: A lot of at the moment’s working mines are in areas labeled as a conflict-affected and high-risk space (CAHRA), which the Group for Financial Cooperation and Improvement defines as locations “recognized by the presence of armed battle, widespread violence, or different dangers of hurt to individuals.” The presence of civil and worldwide wars, insurgencies, political instability and repression, and corruption are some examples of things that decide whether or not an space is taken into account conflict-affected or excessive danger. On the time of this writing, the European Union has recognized 28 international locations with CAHRAs.

Financial dependence on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM): In contrast to large-scale mining, ASMs are operated by people, households, and/or teams and are sometimes casual and fully unregulated, which ends up in little to no well being, security, or environmental protections. They don’t at all times use trendy gear; some depend on instruments like shovels and pickaxes. Because the European Union notes, in some instances, ASMs are managed by armed teams, who use the extracted assets to finance conflicts.

Outdated mining legal guidelines: Present US legal guidelines governing mining don’t tackle the advanced challenges going through the sector. For example, the Normal Mining Regulation of 1872 stays essentially the most outstanding mining regulation at the moment in the US. Governing the extraction of vital minerals on federal lands, it has not been meaningfully up to date since President Ulysses S. Grant signed it greater than 150 years in the past to advertise westward growth. It doesn’t require mining corporations to pay federal royalties to taxpayers and contains no environmental safety provisions. Legal guidelines reminiscent of these don’t mirror the complexities of at the moment’s mining practices; it’s particularly vital that they require free, prior, and knowledgeable consent of Tribal nations, who typically bear the brunt of mining’s detrimental impacts.

An absence of instruments to observe mining practices: With out good governance or transparency from organizations, there’s no option to definitively understand how most mines deal with their employees or have an effect on the encompassing atmosphere. Journalists have been largely liable for uncovering human rights abuses and environmental degradation. We regularly depend on assurances from mining corporations, which frequently show to be inaccurate or incomplete. That’s why we want third-party instruments to observe mining practices: we should have knowledge from trusted sources to meaningfully tackle damaging operations and maintain unhealthy actors accountable whereas constantly requiring accountable practices.

What Is Being Performed To Handle Human Rights Abuses & Environmental Impacts?

Activists, advocates, policymakers, employers, governments, and others are working to combine environmental justice within the EV battery provide chain by:

Onshoring/reshoring/pal shoring efforts: Although removed from a whole resolution, investing in EV provide chain capability inside the US and its allies will assist diversify provide and restrict publicity to human rights abuses and detrimental environmental impacts. When upstream provide is concentrated in a number of international locations, downstream purchasers have little leverage over their suppliers’ human rights and environmental practices. Usually, the US and its allies have robust oversight over human rights issues and high-quality environmental protections, though there may be at all times room for enchancment. The aim right here is just not self-reliance, nevertheless, however relatively higher variety and competitors, serving to put strain on all international locations to stick to improved requirements.

Main efforts to replace laws: On the time of this writing, the Biden administration is convening an Interagency Working Group on Mining Laws, Legal guidelines, and Allowing, which is able to present suggestions to Congress on learn how to reform mining regulation to incorporate provisions that defend the atmosphere, contain native communities, and cut back the time, price, and danger of mine allowing. Likewise, the Initiative for Accountable Mining Assurance (IRMA), has offered suggestions to the Division of State’s Clear Power Sources Advisory Committee relating to what ought to be included in these updates. The US Division of State’s Minerals Safety Partnership has additionally not too long ago introduced ideas marking a public dedication to full integration of environmental, social, and governance requirements into its work.

Enhancing EV provide chain transparency: “Battery passports” may also help producers certify the place battery minerals are sourced and confirm that these sources are following globally acknowledged moral practices.

Convening stakeholders to drive motion. IRMA brings collectively business, affected communities, governments, and others to offer an impartial third-party verification and certification in opposition to a complete normal for all mined supplies that gives “one-stop protection” of the total vary of points associated to the impacts of industrial-scale mines.

Automakers are additionally making commitments to make sure that supplies are ethically sourced. For example, Ford requests that suppliers supply uncooked mined supplies from entities dedicated to and/or licensed by IRMA.

Though the upstream portion of the EV battery provide chain faces many challenges, we are able to tackle them with funding, improved legal guidelines and laws, and public consciousness. These steps will assist make sure that we’ve got the batteries we want for an electrified transportation future with out harming individuals or the planet.


Processors and refiners purify the uncooked supplies, then use them to create cathode and anode energetic battery supplies. Commodity merchants purchase and promote supplies to producers who then assemble battery cells.

The “midstream” portion of the EV battery provide chain has the ability to enhance provide chain traceability, a follow by which merchandise are tracked from their supply to the patron. Since corporations collaborating within the midstream portion of the EV battery provide chain are those that work together most immediately with upstream actors, they’re important to enhancing traceability and making certain that supplies are ethically sourced.

One other challenge that has garnered some consideration is the truth that EV battery manufacturing is concentrated in a handful of nations, elevating issues that offer chains might be susceptible to geopolitical shocks or commerce wars.

Many additionally imagine that American communities are lacking out on the financial alternatives related to the power transition. This challenge has been the topic of congressional motion and is mirrored in current laws such because the Inflation Discount Act, which incorporates provisions that require {that a} sure proportion of EV battery minerals be extracted and processed in the US or a rustic with which the US has a free-trade settlement (FTA).

That will help you perceive these points and what’s being carried out to deal with them, we’ve offered a definition of midstream actions and compiled a listing of solutions to frequent questions relating to these actions.

What Is The “Midstream” Portion Of The EV Battery Provide Chain?

After mines extract uncooked supplies (the upstream portion of the EV battery provide chain), they’re despatched to amenities the place they’re processed, refined, and assembled into battery cells.

Processing entails eradicating unneeded supplies from the minerals. Refining entails working with these processed supplies to realize a purity degree that makes them appropriate to be used in lots of merchandise, together with batteries. Producers then use these supplies to make anode and cathode electrodes which can be positioned into battery cells, which retailer power.*

After the midstream merchandise are prepared, producers mix them into giant battery packs and place them in EVs. These final two steps are a part of the “downstream” portion of the EV battery provide chain, described beneath.

*(It’s vital to notice that there isn’t any single business consensus on whether or not battery cell manufacturing belongs to the midstream or downstream portion of the EV provide chain. RMI considers cell manufacturing a part of the midstream portion.)

The place Do The Processing, Refining, & Battery Cell Steps Take Place?

Just like the upstream portion of the EV battery provide chain, the midstream portion is concentrated in a small variety of international locations, largely exterior of the US.

Asia dominates the midstream portion: in response to BloombergNEF, China, South Korea, and Japan are the world’s three high battery manufacturing international locations, with China dominating.

China produces three-quarters of all lithium-ion batteries and 70 % of cathode capability and processes and refines greater than half of the world’s lithium, cobalt, and graphite. It’s the main refiner of battery metals globally and at the moment hosts 75 % of all battery cell manufacturing capability, 90 % of anode and electrolyte manufacturing, and 60 % of the world’s battery part manufacturing.

The subsequent two international locations on the listing, South Korea and Japan, are liable for considerably much less battery manufacturing (South Korea produces 15 % of the world’s cathode electrodes and three % of its anode electrodes; Japan accounts for 14 % and 11 %, respectively).

How Sturdy Is The USA’ Midstream?

The USA is at the moment not a midstream chief; nevertheless, its midstream capability is rising rapidly, pushed partially by the Superior Manufacturing Manufacturing Credit score (45X) which provides as much as $45 per KWh of battery capability and has the potential to strengthen the US midstream sector.

The USA additionally has current aggressive benefits in automotive manufacturing that it might use to compete within the world EV provide chain, serving to to leverage the financial advantages of transport decarbonization. As famous above, laws just like the IRA will assist — it requires that to be eligible for a automobile tax credit score, a rising proportion of an EV’s battery metallic worth have to be extracted or processed in the US or in a associate nation with an FTA.

Below this final provision, eligible international locations like Australia, which provides about 60 % of the world’s lithium and has an current FTA, would qualify; Indonesia, estimated to account for 37 % of worldwide nickel manufacturing, wouldn’t. Steerage launched by the US Treasury in March 2023 additionally proposes a set of ideas for figuring out the international locations with which the US has an FTA in impact; this time period may embody newly negotiated vital mineral agreements. For instance, Japan signed a vital mineral settlement in March with the US, permitting the Treasury so as to add that nation to its listing of authorised suppliers.

These dynamics, simply misplaced within the legislative high quality print, will turn into main forces in shaping the geography of battery manufacturing within the coming many years.

Why Is Geographic Range Necessary In The Midstream Portion Of The EV Battery Provide Chain?

If the battery provide chain, or parts of it, are concentrated in only a few international locations or areas, the worldwide battery provide chain will endure ought to any of those locations be confronted with disruptions like pure disasters, geopolitics, or altering commerce alliances.

Some observers have urged that efforts to spice up native manufacturing capability implies that each nation ought to attempt to dominate all parts of the EV battery provide chain. Not solely is that this domination unattainable, it’s additionally undesirable.

That’s why it’s vital that extra international locations, together with the US, work on strengthening their EV battery provide chains; in the event that they do, world EV battery manufacturing shall be higher capable of climate these disruptions.

How Can The Midstream Portion Of The EV Battery Provide Chain Assist Handle Human & Environmental Injustice?

Customers and automakers are more and more involved with how the supplies that go into EV batteries are extracted. They don’t need their EVs to be powered by minerals obtained by slave labor or mining practices that destroy native environments. However because of the opacity of EV battery provide chains, it’s very tough for them to seek out out whether or not their batteries are responsibly sourced.

Midstream actors are uniquely positioned to deal with the human rights abuses and environmental degradation related to the upstream (mining) portion of the provision chain (you possibly can learn extra about these points within the part above). As talked about on the high of this text, corporations that course of and refine the minerals that go into EV batteries work together most immediately with people who extract these minerals, which implies that they’ve buying energy. If these concerned within the midstream portion of the provision chain needed to comply with robust due diligence procedures and have been topic to strong audits, they might keep away from shopping for supplies from corporations with questionable or downright unethical mining practices. Mines can be pressured to enhance or else face vital monetary losses. Additionally, business leaders may gain advantage from investing in accountable manufacturing in the identical approach fairtrade espresso sells at a premium.

As we observe above and in one other article, enhancing provide chain traceability would go a great distance in making certain that EV battery minerals are ethically sourced. Know-how can exchange present paper trails with on-line methods that may present corporations and regulators with a better option to monitor, audit, and enhance their provide chains — however any know-how is barely as efficient as its stakeholder participation on the platform.

What Efforts Are Underway To Enhance EV Battery Provide Chain Traceability?

“Battery passports” that monitor the place and the way battery minerals are sourced may assist enhance the provision chain’s transparency. They’d function a battery’s digital twin, which follows the bodily battery because it makes its approach from mineral extraction to placement within the automobile.

Laws may additionally enhance battery traceability. The European Council not too long ago adopted a brand new rule requiring corporations to conduct due diligence alongside their whole provide chain. However so as to succeed, legislative efforts will want buy-in from various ranges of stakeholders, together with nationwide and subnational governments and personal sector leaders. Previous efforts to enhance sourcing, reminiscent of the US’ Battle Minerals Rule, have largely foundered. Traceable, moral provide chains stay an elusive however important part of the power transition.

Client demand, investor strain, regulatory enhancements, and accountable enterprise practices all have a vital position to play in making certain safe and moral provide chains for EV batteries.


Battery producers assemble the battery cells into modules after which packs and promote them to automakers, who place the completed batteries in EVs. Some automakers like Ford and Stellantis have fashioned partnerships with battery producers to provide their very own batteries for the automobiles they promote.

What Is The “Downstream” Portion Of The EV Battery Provide Chain?

The downstream portion of the EV battery provide chain entails the meeting of battery cells into modules after which packs earlier than inserting completed batteries into EVs. (To study extra about how EV batteries work and the way they’re made, learn “EV Batteries 101: The Fundamentals.”)

To make a battery module, producers stack battery cells in sequence or in parallel in a metallic body that protects the cells from the shocks and vibrations that include driving. Modules home a number of battery cells, starting from fewer than 10 to a number of hundred, relying on the cell sort and automobile vary.

These battery modules are then positioned right into a battery pack. Along with battery modules, the battery pack contains different parts that defend the battery and assist it function inside an EV. All of those parts are housed in a construction to guard the battery from water, salt, and different exterior parts that may injury the battery as a complete. These batteries are then despatched to automakers who place them into EVs.

The place Do Downstream Actions Take Place?

Chinese language, South Korean, and Japanese corporations dominate world battery manufacturing; collectively, these international locations accounted for practically 70% of the battery market in 2021. The highest three corporations have been China’s CATL (33%), South Korea’s LG Power Answer (22%), and Japan’s Panasonic (15%). China’s dominance has been attributed to its prioritization and funding in battery manufacturing, whereas South Korea’s and Japan’s rankings have been influenced by strategically constructing on their intensive expertise and experience in manufacturing client electronics.

How Sturdy Is The US Downstream Sector?

Whereas the provision chain will stay world, North America is poised to turn into the second-largest participant within the battery manufacturing market because of its efforts to strengthen native provide chains and improve investments in home meeting, in response to a report from consulting agency LEK.

As we speak, the US is liable for solely 7% of the world’s battery manufacturing capability. As with the midstream portion of the provision chain, the Superior Manufacturing Manufacturing Credit score (45X), which provides as much as $45 per KWh of battery capability, is anticipated to strengthen the US downstream sector.

The present 72 GWh of battery manufacturing capability in the US — which incorporates midstream and downstream operations — may develop to over 1,000 GWh in simply the following two years, as current bulletins and amenities at the moment below building come on-line.

There are lots of causes the US is growing its home investments within the downstream portion of the EV battery provide chain; chief amongst them is a need to cut back reliance on abroad suppliers in sure nations, notably China. By diversifying the provision chain for EVs and the batteries that energy them, automakers will have the ability to endure disruptions in world provide chains and meet growing home and overseas demand. They’ll even be higher capable of meet their formidable local weather objectives and mitigate human rights and environmental abuses related to mining.

How Will American Communities Profit From Stronger Home Provide Chains?

A stronger home provide chain interprets to well-paying, in-demand jobs for employees in various fields starting from mining to engineering to manufacturing, which in flip leads to more healthy, strong economies.

Federal laws just like the Inflation Discount Act and the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act are already transferring the needle. These two legal guidelines present a minimum of $83 billion in loans, grants, and tax credit that would help the manufacturing of low- or zero-emission automobiles, batteries, or chargers, in response to an evaluation from Atlas Public Coverage (APP). RMI estimates that if the US have been to deploy EVs on the velocity required to fulfill net-zero targets, this spending may attain over $200 billion since key tax credit haven’t any higher spending restrict.

In response to authorities investments and laws, automakers are additionally upping their investments in EV manufacturing, assured that funding and demand will proceed to develop. The APP evaluation notes that US-based corporations, led by Ford, Normal Motors, Tesla, and Stellantis, have introduced that they may make investments greater than $173 billion within the transition to EVs.

One other vital market shift is elevated partnership between automakers and battery producers. For instance, Ford is engaged on diversifying its uncooked materials suppliers and Normal Motors and LG have partnered to co-locate battery pack and cell manufacturing; on the time of this writing, they’ve one energetic plant in Ohio and have plans to open two others in Tennessee and Michigan. Some are planning to create manufacturing amenities that home each battery and EV crops, whereas different downstream producers are creating contracts that allow them to supply immediately from accountable mines.

Different international locations and areas are additionally engaged on enhancing their home EV battery provide chains. The European Union has introduced formidable plans to strengthen regional EV manufacturing whereas Indonesia and Thailand purpose to turn into regional market leaders by profiting from the truth that they already function vital automobile manufacturing hubs for world markets in addition to wealthy upstream mineral and metallic provides.

How Can Downstream Actors Mitigate Human Rights & Environmental Abuses?

Whereas downstream affect is proscribed by the present provide of the minerals that go into EV batteries, battery producers and automakers nonetheless have appreciable affect in enhancing the EV battery provide chain for one easy purpose — downstream actors can affect accountable mining practices in the identical approach espresso outlets can affect accountable espresso farming.

Customers and automakers are involved about human rights and environmental abuses and are subsequently making use of growing strain on upstream actors to enhance their mining practices. This strain has resulted in company commitments to implement stronger insurance policies to guard native communities, employees, and the atmosphere.

More and more, corporations, together with automakers, will demand to see auditable data displaying the place vital minerals like nickel and cobalt come from. Thus far, these methods are simply starting to take form, led by a handful of enterprising corporations and know-how startups. Coupled with strong home laws and laws in addition to internationally harmonized insurance policies governing EV battery provide chains, detrimental impacts related to the provision chains may lower.

Shifting Ahead

It’s an thrilling time for transportation electrification, a motion that beneficial properties momentum day by day. As we collectively work towards decarbonizing the way in which individuals and items transfer, it’s vital that governments, policymakers, the personal and public sector, and communities perceive the EV battery worth chain so we are able to successfully tackle its challenges whereas additionally realizing electrification’s financial, well being, and environmental potential.

By Alessandra R. Carreon, © 2021 Rocky Mountain Institute. Printed with permission. Initially posted on RMI.


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I do not like paywalls. You do not like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Right here at CleanTechnica, we carried out a restricted paywall for some time, however it at all times felt flawed — and it was at all times robust to determine what we must always put behind there. In idea, your most unique and greatest content material goes behind a paywall. However then fewer individuals learn it! We simply do not like paywalls, and so we have determined to ditch ours.

Sadly, the media enterprise continues to be a tricky, cut-throat enterprise with tiny margins. It is a unending Olympic problem to remain above water and even maybe — gasp — develop. So …

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