President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order on Wednesday that will help protect the supply chain for electric vehicles manufactured domestically, including parts and components, not just final assembly.
The U.S. is a net EV exporter. The number of EVs built and exported to other countries by Tesla, Nissan, and General Motors exceeds the number of EVs brought in from outside our borders. On the way from Rivian, Lucid, and others, factor in the EVs, and it’s definitely going to be like that for a long time.
But the U.S. depends heavily on the world’s supply chains, and the same can’t be said of the raw materials that go into the most precious piece of an electric vehicle: the battery pack.
“The U.S. could better leverage our sizable lithium reserves and manufacturing know-how to expand domestic battery production,” said the administration, in a White House fact sheet accompanying the Executive Order announcement.
Concerns continue as to whether the supply of cobalt and nickel, and rare earth components needed for magnets and power electronics, will keep up with demand. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s leading supplier of cobalt, but through some political outmaneuvering, as stated by Politico, China has greater access to that supply.
In a review of 50 commodities conducted by the executive order of then-President Trump, the USGS and the U.S. Department of Commerce found that cobalt was among the materials at the highest risk of supply disruptions.
Specifically, the initiative centered on mining and extraction, but the Biden move might help bring more required pieces into place, utilizing those resources, between that and actual output.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, said Tesla will strip cobalt from future batteries, and his supplier, Panasonic, which manufactures cells in Nevada along with Tesla, is reportedly working on its own cobalt-free chemistry. When the Nevada Gigafactory was developed by Tesla, it aimed to supply North American raw materials, but could not find adequate domestic supply for some of the required minerals.
Two reviews will be triggered by the Biden order. A 100-day analysis will recognize short-term measures and gaps, while a one-year review will provide a more in-depth look at the level of the organization, resulting in recommendations and new R&D activities, including “outside stakeholders, such as those in business, academia, NGOs, societies, trade unions, and state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.”