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The webinar focused on the importance of driving innovation in battery technology and featured a discussion among four experts from Lyten, Sila Nanotechnologies, General Motors (GM), and the Argonne National Lab’s ReCell Center on the obstacles and opportunities to commercialize advanced battery technologies in the United States.
While the automotive industry has undergone more than one hundred years of continual innovation, the advanced battery technology industry is still relatively new. Panelists discussed the need for innovation to develop commercial-ready products and establish secure supply chains, as well as the need for manufacturers to consider “future-proofing” their chemistries and designs so that they are more recyclable. Kurt Kelty, VP for Commercialization at Sila, noted that cost reductions and improvements in driving range and charge time afforded by new chemistries were key to this effort, while Celina Mikolajczak, Chief Battery Technology Officer at Lyten, discussed how new chemistries could help with tightening supplies of certain minerals used in batteries today. A Material Scientist at Argonne National Lab, Jessica Durham Macholz, highlighted the ReCell Center’s pivotal role in driving innovation in the recycling sector through collaborative research and development agreements with the private sector. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has created a more favorable environment for investment in recycling, which Durham views positively, as new technologies to recycle batteries will need to be developed to keep up with changing battery chemistries.
Beyond discussing opportunities for innovation, the panelists shed light on the hurdles companies are currently facing to bring advanced battery technologies to commercial scale. Mikolajczak emphasized that additional investment must be directed toward the creation of domestic manufacturing plants to serve as an intermediate step between pilot lines and gigafactories. Mike Maten, Director for EV Policy & Regulatory Affairs at GM, added that manufacturing is both highly capital- and labor-intensive and identifying and training the workforce to build these batteries also presents a large challenge.
For the United States to become competitive with China, the world’s largest battery maker, both agreed that the U.S. government has a major role to play in supporting domestic intellectual property and funding the development of intermediate-stage manufacturing facilities. Nevertheless, with few large-scale battery makers in the world, joint ventures between automakers and established players will enable the United States to rapidly produce electric vehicles, develop a specialized labor force, secure investment, and strengthen its domestic supply chain. Finally, the panelists expressed their enthusiasm about the future of advanced battery technology in the United States, as domestic demand has created a market that can be sustained by policies such as the IRA.