Wyden, Merkley Join Colleagues in Calling on Department of Energy to Promote Battery Recycling in U.S. Electric Vehicle Fleet

In 2023, EV sales hit a record, surpassing one million cars sold

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined 12 of their colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to bolster and diversify the nation’s domestic supply of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, including promoting EV battery recycling.

Congress has taken bipartisan steps to support EV battery recycling. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) allocated more than $6 billion for advanced battery manufacturing, research, and development. This work has already supported 15 projects across the country to further the transition to a zero-emission transportation sector, strengthen energy security, and bolster American manufacturing.

The senators wrote in a letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm, “As the adoption of EVs accelerates, so too will the consumption of the critical minerals and materials needed to construct new batteries: projections indicate that, by 2034, the U.S. will consume roughly 500,000 metric tons of lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite, combined. The global supply of these minerals is currently dominated by China, which accounts for 60% of production and 85% of processing capacity.”

The senators continued, “EV battery recycling can help bridge the gap in our domestic supply chain and reduce our dependence on foreign imports . . . For example, some early entrants into the recycling field have salvaged up to 95% of the critical minerals from an EV battery. These high-efficiency yields will allow the U.S. to build a more resilient battery supply chain.” 

Specifically, the senators urged DOE to: 

  1. Promote Battery Recycling in the Federal Government. DOE has been working across the federal government to electrify and optimize the efficiency of the federal fleet. DOE should consider partnering with other agencies to develop plans for managing retired federal EVs, including repurposing batteries through second-life applications and mineral recycling. The Department should also coordinate with the General Services Agency as it implements its Strategic EV Management provisions.
  2. Improve Used Battery Collection. DOE should leverage the IIJA’s Consumer Electronics Battery Recycling, Reprocessing, and Battery Collection grant program to ensure a functional supply chain by working with grant recipients to coordinate the distribution of collected batteries to recyclers at scale. DOE should also work with recipients to conduct public outreach and education campaigns to maximize the efficacy of battery collection programs. Finally, DOE should coordinate with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its Battery Collection Best Practices and Battery Labeling Guidelines, which the EPA is required to complete by 2026 under the IIJA
  3. Prioritize Technologies to Facilitate Efficient Recycling. DOE should continue to prioritize battery recycling as it implements the IIJA. Funding opportunities should focus on technologies that result in the highest yield of recycled minerals, reduce pollution from non-mineral components, and are the most energy efficient. DOE should also concentrate advanced manufacturing grants on battery designs that facilitate recycling to maximize circular management of resources. 

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the letter led by U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) was signed by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). 

The letter is endorsed by Ford, Stellantis, General Motors, Plug In America, Sierra Club, Battery Minerals and Technology Coalition, Umicore, the Rocky Mountain Institute, MEMA: The Vehicle Suppliers Association, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, Electric Drive Transportation Association, NRDC, LiCycle, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), CALSTART, Clean Energy for America, Climate and Community Project, Conservation Law Foundation, Dream.ORG, Earthjustice, Earthworks, Ecology Center, Elders Climate Action, Electric Vehicle Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, GreenLatinos, Interfaith Power and Light, League of Conservation Voters, Public Citizen, Southern Environmental Law Center, ZETA, and Advanced Energy United. 

The full letter is here.