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US Department of Energy launch $60M support package to recycling and second life projects

As a part of the Biden administration's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) $7 billion which will be invested in the US battery supply chain $60M has been allocated to projects related to recycling and second life of lithium-ion batteries.

The BIL will invest more than $7 billion in the batteries supply chain over the five

year starting 2022. This includes sustainable sourcing of critical minerals from secondary and unconventional sources, reducing the need for new extraction and mining; sustainable processing of critical minerals; and the end-of-life battery collection and recycling.

The end-of-life section of the BIL, section 40208, is focused on two areas:

  • second-life applications for electric drive vehicle batteries that have been used to power electric drive vehicles

  • technologies and processes for final recycling and disposal of electric drive vehicle batteries.

The second life part which will fund projects with 50% cost-sharing, $20M is allocated which is anticipated to be shared between 2-4 projects. The aim is to create more modular and flexible solutions to enable lower front-end installation costs that can scale with demand is anticipated to create a higher demand for second-use batteries.

For recycling only 20% cost-sharing is required and a $40M will be made available over a 36 months period for 4-6 projects. The focus is on different technical approaches that can use flexible feedstocks of lithium-ion battery scrap, processes with lower environmental footprint, high yields and recovery rates, process using direct recycling, modular solutions and solutions for separating anode, cathode and electrolyte and other battery components for further processing. There is also a need to find ways to render batteries inert before transportation.

The funding is an important boost for the US recycling and second life industry. Previously the Recell Center, which is comprised by Argonne National Laboratories, NREL and Oakridge National lab and other academic and commercial partners, was funded with $15M over three years. In the UK the Relib project within the Faraday Institution received funding of £14.1M ($17.3M) over five years while more funding has been available for projects within the wider Faraday battery challenge. Still the amounts pale in comparison with the large capital raises made by startups such as Redwood Materials, Li-Cycle and Ascend Elements ranging from 100 to close to a billion USD in cash and in-kind investments.

The first EU IPCEI battery package of which "repurposing, recycling and refining" was one focus area amounted to €3.2 billion ($3.4 billion) in public support.

The projects within the BIL can be applied for by companies and institutions with presence in the US. The first submission deadline is already the 31st of May 2022 and selection notifications are expected in October.

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