What does the growing electric vehicle supply chain look like in the United States? We mapped it.

By James Morton Turner and Arzy Abliadzhyieva

News of the agreement between Senators Schumer and Manchin to expand and revise incentives for electric vehicles has put the national electric vehicle supply chain in the spotlight. Their proposal doesn’t just extend incentives to electric vehicles, it does so in a way that forces manufacturers to quickly source battery materials and components domestically or from U.S. trade allies.

This focus on sourcing aligns with a key recommendation from my upcoming book, Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future. It is imperative that the United States adopt policies that will improve both the sustainability and security of supply of the materials needed to enable a clean energy transition. The policies that the Biden administration has advanced through executive action and that Congress is now considering as part of this climate deal will help achieve that goal.

But as details of the supply requirements are released, concerns are already being raised over whether the requirements could short-circuit the value of revised incentives for electric vehicles. Once enacted, 40% of the value of critical materials and 50% of battery components must meet the procurement requirements to claim the full $7,500 tax incentive – and those percentages increase each year from of 2024. It is an open question because how many manufacturers are able to meet these requirements in the short term.

Yet every week, news of a new battery gigafactory, electric vehicle manufacturing plant, recycling facility or proposed mine hits the cleantech headlines. This activity has been bolstered by the Biden administration’s efforts to revive domestic manufacturing through the Defense Production Act and the Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program. Last week, the administration announced a $2.5 billion loan for GM’s joint venture with LG to manufacture batteries in Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan.

Does this flurry of activity add up to a national electric vehicle supply chain? To what extent are these new projects just blueprints? How many projects are under construction? What facilities are in production? Where are they located? How many jobs could be created? To help answer these questions, we’ve created an interactive map-based dashboard to track the state of the electric vehicle supply chain in the United States.

For an interactive version of this map, see: charge-le-livre.com. Courtesy of Jay Turner.

The dashboard is based on research we conducted this summer at Wellesley College, drawing on information compiled from government reports, company press releases, industry media coverage and regulatory filings. It is a work in progress. We plan to continue updating the dashboard both to track the growth of the electric vehicle supply chain, to include major US trading partners (beginning with Canada and Mexico) and to correct any omissions or inaccuracies in the reported information.

Currently, we track 77 sites in the national electric vehicle supply chain, which includes mining operations, material refining, component and battery cell manufacturing, electric vehicle assembly and recycling operations. Among the sites, 17 are in operation, 10 are in operation but under construction, 17 are under construction and others are being planned or piloted.

The key lesson from the scorecard will come as no surprise: few sites in the United States mine or refine the critical materials needed for batteries (we track lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite). Although a dozen more sites are in the planning phase, given the challenges of licensing mining and refining operations and bringing them into production, manufacturers face significant challenges in meeting the material sourcing requirements at the national level in order to meet the requirements of the proposed incentives for electric vehicles.

What is obvious are the significant investments that are made further upstream, in the manufacture of components and battery cells. Eight sites are in production and another 10 are under construction with the potential to produce at least 700 GWh of batteries per year (based on those that have announced capacity targets) and employ 32,550 total employees at full capacity.

The good news is that the incentives offered for electric vehicles include materials from US Fair Trade allies. Of the countries on this list, South Korea, Australia, Chile, Mexico and Canada will play a key role in helping manufacturers meet new sourcing requirements. But, if passed, the electric vehicle supply provisions will reshape the geography of the electric vehicle supply chain. We’ll continue to update our dashboard to see how it’s doing in the US.

James Morton Turner is Professor of Environmental Studies at Wellesley College and author of the forthcoming book Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future (August 2022). You can view the interactive electric vehicle supply chain dashboard and learn more about Accused at https://charged-the-book.com. Turner tweets at @_jay_turner. Arzy Abliadzhyieva is an undergraduate student at Wellesley College.

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