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In testimony to Congress, Rivian's policymaking wish list leans into battery supply chain

Rivian plan.jpg
Ryan Denham
/
WGLT
A Rivian R1T electric truck shell makes its way through the manufacturing plant in Normal earlier this month.

The U.S. has the mineral resources and industrial capability to create a fully domestic battery EV supply chain, but it will take a massive “all of the above” mobilization of the federal government to make it happen, a Rivian official told Congress.

Rivian senior director for public policy Chris Nevers testified recently in front of a House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee. Nevers laid out the electric automaker’s policymaking wish list if the federal government wants to make transportation electrification a priority.

“The federal government can achieve ambitious electrification objectives by empowering companies to ramp production – this includes accelerating EV testing procedures, expediting and streamlining federal EV fleet requirements, and quickly providing visas for skilled workers,” Nevers testified.

Supply chain challenges are a major constraint on Rivian’s manufacturing plant in Normal, which has over 5,000 workers and is McLean County’s second-largest employer. Production there is expected to hit 25,000 vehicles in 2022 – about half of what it could be if not for a shortage of chips and other materials.

Nevers and other Rivian officials are warning the chip shortage could just be the tip of the iceberg—that the coming shortage of battery components will be even more disruptive to their young industry. Battery prices rose in 2021 after a decade of declines—declines that helped put more affordable EVs within reach of consumers. Today, most battery components are sourced overseas.

The EV industry’s projected growth may be “compromised by lack of secure access to critical materials for battery manufacturing,” Nevers said.

“To put this into perspective, all the world’s current cell production capacity still represents perhaps less than 10 percent of what we will need in 10 years,” Nevers said.

Rivian’s policymaking wish list for Congress includes:

  • “Increase and accelerate” federal research efforts into new battery cell chemistry development, solid-state batteries, module and pack engineering, software design, and raw material sourcing.
  • Reform domestic mining laws, some of which Rivian says date back to the 1870s, with an emphasis on conflict avoiding and permitting efficiency.
  • Expand the federal consumer EV tax credit “without unnecessary limitations.”
  • Create “exceptions” to state auto dealer franchise laws, which Rivian calls dealership “protection laws.” Rivian is fighting those laws on a state-by-state basis, calling them “one of the biggest barriers to EV adoption in the U.S.”

Watch Nevers’ testimony below:

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