Two prominent Democratic U.S. senators, Mark Warner, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Joe Manchin, Chair of the Energy Committee, have strongly encouraged the Energy Department to enhance U.S. battery manufacturing and advance research in next-generation batteries. This push comes in response to China’s significant lead in battery technology and its recent imposition of export controls, as highlighted in a letter obtained by Reuters.
The senators emphasized that the U.S. is lagging significantly behind Asian countries, particularly in commercializing battery technology. They pointed out that China is responsible for over three-quarters of the global battery cell production. This dominance is further underscored by China’s control over the production of graphite, a key element in battery anode manufacturing, which the U.S. heavily relies on.
In their letter, Warner and Manchin stressed the urgency for the U.S. to become self-reliant in producing batteries and their components and to secure the supply chains for these critical materials. This is especially pertinent given China’s recent decision to restrict graphite exports, which poses a significant challenge to battery manufacturing.
The letter also highlighted the current production gap, noting that in 2022, the United States produced less than 10% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries. However, the demand for these batteries is projected to surge, increasing more than sevenfold by 2035. This surge is attributed to their critical role in various sectors, including military systems, as stated by the Pentagon. Lithium-ion batteries are essential in a wide array of military applications, from simple handheld radios to more complex systems like unmanned submersibles, future lasers, directed energy weapons, and hybrid electric tactical vehicles.
Given these concerns, the senators have requested a briefing from the committee by December 1st, focusing on the ongoing research and development in next-generation battery technologies. This move underlines the growing awareness and urgency in the U.S. government to catch up in the global battery technology race, particularly in light of China’s growing dominance and restrictive policies.