Energy Department gives major loan to facility for processing electric vehicle materials

The Energy Department announced on Friday that it will give a $102 million loan to expand a processing facility for materials used in electric vehicle batteries. 

The facility, owned by Syrah Technologies in Vidalia, La., is a major manufacturer of a material used in lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and other clean-energy technologies.  

In a conditional approval from April, the Energy Department said that the loan could give the facility enough capacity to produce about 2.5 million electric vehicles by 2040, saving 970 million gallons of gasoline.

The department said that the project is expected to create 150 jobs in construction and 98 jobs in operations. 

“DOE’s investment in Syrah Vidalia builds on President Biden’s goals to  secure our clean transportation future and grow the United States’ electric vehicle and advanced battery manufacturing workforce,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. 

The facility, however, has been the subject of some controversy. E&E News reported in May that the graphite it uses in its batteries is mined in an area of Mozambique where an ISIS-linked insurgency is happening. 

Asked whether there was anything being done to make sure the loan didn’t further inflame those tensions on a Wednesday press call, officials deferred to Syrah CFO Steve Wells. Wells said that the company was monitoring incidents near the mine, has a strong relationship with the local and national government and “undertake[s] to” employ 96 percent locals in the mine.

The loan issued by the Energy Department is the first that it has issued through its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program since 2011. 

The department made another high profile loan in June, issuing $504.4 million dollars for clean energy creation and storage — the first loan guarantee issued by its Loan Programs Office since since 2014.