If you remember 2022 (it seems so long ago now), you probably remember the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). If you’re a fan of EVs and you spend much time on social media, you probably saw all of the controversy over the Act’s treatment of battery minerals for EV tax credits.
I predicted that the situation would end up not only OK, but much better off. In this article, I want to explore some more evidence that I was right, and this time it comes from Honda.
What the IRA Did
Specifically, the Inflation Reduction Act has this language:
“EXCLUDED ENTITIES.—For purposes of 2 this section, the term ‘new clean vehicle’ shall not include–
‘‘(A) any vehicle placed in service after December 31, 2024, with respect to which any of the applicable critical minerals contained in the battery of such vehicle (as described in subsection (e)(1)(A)) were extracted, processed, or recycled by a foreign entity of concern (as defined in section 40207(a)(5) of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (42 U.S.C. 18741(a)(5))), or
‘‘(B) any vehicle placed in service after December 31, 2023, with respect to which any of the components contained in the battery of such vehicle (as described in subsection (e)(2)(A)) were manufactured or assembled by a foreign entity of concern (as so defined).’’
Entities of foreign concern are those countries that Washington doesn’t trust to have the United States by the proverbial testicles. Get too dependent on minerals from another country, and they might use that against you to achieve some foreign policy goal or even in future warfare. The big concern: China.
Before anybody tells me we can trust China to control our automotive industry like this, let’s just look at what they did to Japan when push came to shove. This article discusses how China’s control over clean technology and medical progress was highlighted in 2010 when it withheld supplies from Japan, leaving Japan vulnerable and forcing it to compromise on a border dispute. This event probably motivated Japan to pursue a different path when it comes to clean technology, which may explain why Japanese automakers are continuing to focus on hydrogen technology while the rest of the world is largely developing battery-electric vehicles.
So, in a nutshell, if we want the clean energy transition to be derailed by foreign policy, doing nothing and letting China dominate the industry is a great idea. If we want it to succeed in the long run, we need to make sure the minerals come from friendly sources so the rug won’t get pulled from under us.
Here’s Yet Another Example Of The IRA Leading To Good Things
We’ve had a number of articles highlighting increases in domestic EV battery production, and today I want to share two more stories from Honda that continue this trend.
Ascend Elements, a company in the US that specializes in battery recycling and engineered materials, announced a preliminary agreement with Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co., Ltd. at the end of last month. The two companies plan to collaborate on securing a stable supply of recycled lithium-ion battery materials for Honda electric vehicles in North America. Using recycled battery materials in new EV batteries has the potential to significantly lower the carbon footprint of electric vehicles, which can be key to reducing the environmental impact of EVs.
“Honda is aiming for ‘zero environmental impact’ by 2050 and sourcing recycled battery materials for its electric vehicles is a huge part of that,” said Mike O’Kronley, CEO of Ascend Elements. “We’re honored to continue our strategic relationship with Honda in North America.”
Ascend Elements has been recycling used lithium-ion batteries for American Honda Motor Co. since 2021. This latest agreement is a significant step towards achieving a closed-loop supply chain for recycled battery materials, including lithium, nickel, and cobalt.
In collaboration with Honda, Ascend Elements aims to employ its patented Hydro-to-Cathode™ direct precursor synthesis process to maximize the efficiencies and environmental benefits of using recycled materials. The company produces commercial products made from recycled batteries, such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt, as well as sustainable cathode precursor and cathode active materials, all of which are made from recycled lithium-ion batteries and gigafactory manufacturing scrap.
Within a few days of that announcement, Honda had another announcement in Ohio. Honda and LG Energy Solution recently held an official groundbreaking ceremony for a new electric vehicle (EV) battery plant. The joint venture plant, which will cover over 2 million square feet, will be located in Fayette County, close to Jeffersonville, Ohio.
Honda and LG Energy Solution have pledged to invest a total of $3.5 billion in the new joint venture plant, which could eventually reach an investment amount of $4.4 billion. The facility is expected to be finished by the end of 2024, with the potential to create 2,200 jobs. Upon completion, the plant is projected to have an annual production capacity of around 40 GWh. The new joint venture will focus on developing cutting-edge lithium-ion batteries to support Honda’s efforts to produce battery-electric vehicles (EVs) in North America.
Several important figures attended the groundbreaking ceremony, including Toshihiro Mibe, the CEO and president of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and Dong-Myung Kim, the president and head of the Advanced Automotive Battery Division of LG Energy Solution. Also in attendance were Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, and other government officials and community leaders from the local area.
During the ceremony, Robert H. Lee, the CEO, and Rick Riggle, the COO of the new joint venture company, unveiled a render of the upcoming facility, which will be situated approximately 40 miles to the southwest of Columbus.
“It is an honor to represent two great corporations, Honda and LG Energy Solution, both with a long, proud history of success. LG Energy Solution is the leading battery manufacturer globally and is investing aggressively to meet demand for electrification. We are excited to embark on this partnership with Honda, a leader in the global auto industry with a reputation for quality and reliability,” said Lee. “If we harness these strengths, I have no doubt our joint venture will be the most successful battery plant in the world, and we look forward to being a part of this massive transformation toward sustainability.”
Alongside the joint venture plant, Honda has also revealed plans to retool some of its existing auto and powertrain plants in Ohio for electric vehicle production. The company plans to invest $700 million in these plants and will use the batteries produced at the new joint venture facility for these EVs. Honda has stated its intent to begin production and sales of its own EVs in North America by 2026, using the new Honda e:Architecture. As part of its overall goal to reach carbon neutrality in all products and corporate activities by 2050, Honda aims to have battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles make up 100% of its vehicle sales globally by 2040.
It’s pretty clear that Honda intends to jump into US EV manufacturing, and to get the maximum benefit from the IRA incentives, it is working to get US minerals, including recycled supplies, and build battery cells in the United States. This will be great not only for Honda, but for the US and its allies in the coming years.
Featured image: Arata Ichinose, Operating Executive and Head Business Development at Honda Motor Co. meets with Ascend Elements CEO Mike O’Kronley in Westborough, Mass. Image provided by Ascend Elements.
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