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The U.S. Is ‘10 To 20 Years Behind Asia’ In Battery Manufacturing And Research: Report

The United States is lagging behind Asia when it comes to battery research, manufacturing, and procurement of raw materials, according to a letter signed by two influential Democratic U.S. senators that was seen by Reuters.

The letter, which was written by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner and Energy Committee Chair Joe Manchin, cites experts who say that the U.S. is “ten to twenty years behind Asia in commercialization of battery technology.”

The heart of the problem lies in China’s grip on the world’s battery cell production and America’s inability to rise to the challenge. As the letter notes, China makes more than 75 percent of the battery cells at a global level, while the United States managed to produce less than 10 percent of the world’s lithium-ion batteries last year.

Moreover, China dominates the globe’s battery supply chain, including graphite, which is required for almost all lithium-ion cells. This is particularly worrying, as China decided to restrict exports of graphite last month, making it harder to manufacture the anodes of the cells.

Demand is expected to grow seven times by 2035, so the U.S. has to do something about this situation. As a result, the letter states that a committee briefing has to take place by Dec. 1 “on ongoing research and development of next-generation battery technologies.”

A previous unreported letter seen by Reuters underlines the importance of the U.S. becoming a leader in manufacturing batteries and battery components, as well as securing supply chains for the materials that make up those components.

National security is also a part of the discussion, as the Pentagon has said in the past that lithium-ion batteries are crucial to thousands of military systems, including handheld ratios, unmanned submersibles, and future capabilities like lasers, directed energy weapons and hybrid electric tactical vehicles, according to the latest letter signed by the two senators.

Currently, China controls between 60 and 100 percent of the mining or refining capacity for five critical materials used for making most types of lithium-ion batteries, the letter said, adding that “it is critical that the U.S. lead in next-generation battery technology and alternate chemistries.”

The two senators’ latest letter comes after the European Union opened a formal probe into the subsidies received by Chinese electric car manufacturers that are trying to flood the market with cheap EVs. The probe was blasted by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce as being “protectionist.”

In the United States, Chinese-made vehicles are subject to a 25 percent tariff that comes on top of the regular 2.5 percent import tariff for imported cars.

 

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