A little-publicized clause in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act has companies scrambling to recycle electric vehicle batteries in North America, putting the region at the forefront of a global race to undermine China’s dominance of the field.
The IRA includes a clause that automatically qualifies EV battery materials recycled in the U.S. as American-made for subsidies, regardless of their origin. That is important because it qualifies automakers using U.S.-recycled battery materials for EV production incentives.
Reuters interviewed more than a dozen industry officials and experts who say that is kicking off a U.S. factory building boom, encouraging automakers to research more recyclable batteries, and could eventually make it harder for buyers in developing countries to buy old used EVs.
China handles virtually all EV battery recycling in a global market projected to grow from $11 billion in 2022 to $18 billion by 2028, according to research firm EMR. As more EVs are introduced and age out of the vehicle fleet, that business will grow.
The minerals in those batteries – primarily lithium, cobalt and nickel – are worth on average between 1,000 euros ($1,123) to 2,000 euros per car, BMW (BMWG.DE) sustainability chief Thomas Becker told Reuters.
Those materials could be in short supply within a few years as automakers boost EV production, but “can be recycled infinity times and not lose their power,” said Louie Diaz, vice president at Canadian battery recycling firm Li-Cycle (LICY.N), which received a $375 million U.S government loan for a New York plant slated to open later this year. That funding helped bring forward the investment decision for the plant, Diaz said.