China’s export restrictions on critical minerals are threatening the viability of EV makers–and forcing them to innovate – by Gene Berdichevsky (Fortune Magazine – November 9, 2023)

Gene Berdichevsky is the CEO of Sila.

American policymakers and automakers just got a big wake-up call with China’s announcement that it will require a special export license for battery-grade graphite, effectively restricting exports. While other critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt receive more attention, graphite is equally essential for the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles, and the Chinese government currently controls more than 90% of the world’s supply.

Not only should the U.S. work to secure more reliable supplies of graphite to build a domestic battery supply chain and meet our clean energy goals but we must also prioritize innovative battery materials that improve performance and eliminate dependence on unstable supply chains.

Even before China’s most recent move to restrict exports, EV battery supply chains were under growing pressure. By 2035, global demand for graphite will require 97 new mines and more than $12 billion in capital for new mining projects.

While the U.S. and our allies should invest in capacity for battery-grade graphite, it is unlikely the U.S. will meet the growing demand for battery materials through new mining alone. It can take several years to identify, prepare, and start a new mine. We have no choice but to invest in innovative battery materials.

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