Critical Materials are Vital to Producing Electric Vehicle Batteries, Wind Turbines, and Other Clean Energy Technologies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced up to $30 million to support scientific research that will ensure American businesses can reliably tap into a domestic supply of critical elements and minerals, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, needed to produce clean energy technologies. Currently, the U.S. is grappling with chronic shortages in the domestic supply of these critical materials, forcing the country to rely on imported materials.

“America is in a race against economic competitors like China to own the EV market—and the supply chains for critical materials like lithium and cobalt will determine whether we win or lose,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “If we want to achieve a 100% carbon-free economy by 2050, we have to create our own supply of these materials, including alternatives here at home in America. And we must scale up new American industries that will create millions of good-paying union jobs to do it.”

Roughly 35 rare-earth elements, such as platinum, serve as key components to several clean-energy and high-tech applications—magnets in wind turbines, batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, phosphors in energy-efficient lighting and displays, and catalysts for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. At present, the U.S. relies on imports from nations such as China and the Democratic Republic of Congo for these critical materials. Imports account for 100% of our supply of 14 of the 35 elements, and over 50% of 17 others. This leaves clean energy technology production at greater risk of disruption due to trade disputes, natural disasters, or armed conflicts.

“I’m thrilled to see the Department of Energy announce $30 million to shore up America’s critical minerals supply chains,” said Senator Joe Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “We should not be solely reliant on imports from a handful of countries, some of which have questionable mining practices, for critical minerals and rare earth elements that are crucial inputs in countless devices and technologies Americans use every day, including many clean energy technologies. This funding gets us closer to our goal of creating a reliable, domestic supply chain, which is important for U.S. national security and American manufacturing and will aid our transition to a clean energy future. I encourage all interested applicants to apply.”

DOE’s $30 million investment will bolster existing efforts to increase the availability of critical materials supported by several Department offices, including Energy Efficiency and Renewable EnergyFossil Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. Specifically, the money will fund research into the fundamental properties of rare-earth and platinum-group elements and the basic chemistry, materials sciences, and geosciences needed to discover substitutes.

"A robust supply of critical materials is vital to U.S. success in leading the development of technologies today and in the future, including clean energy and electric vehicle technologies,” said Chairman of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) and former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis C. Blair (Ret.). “This funding is therefore a welcome and crucial early investment by the Biden Administration. The research this timely funding supports will underpin considerable economic and national security benefits today and for years to come in creating a resilient domestic supply chain.”

National laboratories, universities, industry, and nonprofit organizations may apply for the three-year awards, to be selected based on peer review. The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), within the Department’s Office of Science, will manage the investment, granting awards both for single investigators and larger teams. Up to $10 million of the $30 million in planned funding is contingent on congressional appropriations. 

The Funding Opportunity Announcement can be found on the BES funding opportunities page.