On Jan. 17, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the launch of a Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize and the establishment of an associated Battery Recycling R&D Center. The aim of these initiatives is to reclaim and recycle critical materials (e.g., cobalt and lithium) from lithium-based battery technology used in consumer electronics, defense, energy storage and transportation applications.
“America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical materials undermines our energy security and national security,” Perry says. “The Department of Energy (DOE) will leverage the power of competition and the resources of the private sector, universities and the [DOE’s] National Laboratories to develop innovative recycling technologies, which will bolster economic growth, strengthen our energy security and improve the environment.”
Materials such as lithium and cobalt are both expensive and dependent on foreign sources for production. According to Perry, President Trump’s Executive Order 13817 identifies the need for “developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies” as part of a broader strategy to “ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.”
The goal of the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize and the Battery Recycling R&D Center is to develop technologies to profitably capture 90 percent of all lithium-based battery technologies in the United States. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled at a rate of less than 5 percent.
DOE hopes the Battery Recycling Prize will encourage American entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions to collect, store and transport discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling. The agency will award cash prizes totaling $5.5 million to contestants in three progressive phases designed to accelerate the development of solutions from concept to prototype to demonstration.
The announcement, which was made at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Energy Innovation Council, also included the news of a $15 million investment to establish a Lithium Battery R&D Recycling Center that will be focused on cost-effective recycling processes to recover lithium battery materials. The center will be led by Argonne National Laboratory along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.