In total, there is $2.8 billion for 20 projects from 19 companies. (Ascend Elements, a recycling and refining company, won two grants for two different steps in its process, totaling nearly half a million dollars.)
Here’s what caught my eye about the awards:
- The funding is largely for commercialization, not research, so there’s a lot here that could quickly affect the markets.
- There appears to be a focus on lithium processing, with four companies winning grants in this area. Nickel and graphite processing also made the list.
- Companies making lithium iron phosphate batteries got a couple of grants. This chemistry is a low-cost, slightly lower-performance version of lithium-ion batteries. They are a growing part of the market and could be even more important since they do not contain cobalt, one of the metals of greatest concern to experts.
- Silicon anodes won a couple of grants: They’re not widely used in electric vehicles today, but they could be coming soon and will likely help increase range. (Learn more about this technology here.)
After the announcement, I spoke with Ryan Melsert, CEO of American Battery Technology Company (ABTC). ABTC is a battery materials company working on both battery recycling and a new method of lithium extraction and refining.
The company received about $58 million to build a commercial-size lithium processing facility in Nevada. The project was already underway, but the influx of federal cash really helped speed up the schedule, Melsert says. “We are happy with the tailwinds we have and the support we have received,” he says.
But ABTC is still looking for even more financing opportunities, especially to support its mining activities, Melsert says. It has its eyes on the Defense Production Act, which President Biden signed into law earlier this year to support US battery supply, and will focus primarily on mining.
It’s not all about the money, though. “I think there are still more hurdles to overcome,” says Melsert. The permitting process, in particular, could be a barrier to his and other new mining projects.
There is a lot more money where that funding comes from. Expect to see billions more in bipartisan Infrastructure Act grants to battery companies in the coming months.
There is also funding from the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Defense Production Act. It’s like the Christmas of climate technology!