Department of Energy Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize

The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize focuses on identifying innovative solutions for collecting, sorting, storing, and transporting spent and discarded lithium-ion batteries — from electric vehicle (EV), consumer electronics, industrial, and stationary applications — for eventual recycling and materials recovery.

The Battery Recycling Prize is a $5.5-million phased prize competition designed to incentivize American entrepreneurs to develop and demonstrate processes that, when scaled, have the potential to profitably capture 90% of all discarded or spent lithium-based batteries in the United States for eventual recovery of key materials for re-introduction into the U.S. supply chain.

This Battery Recycling Prize is NOT for lead-acid batteries as currently a vast recycling supply chain collects, stores, transports, recycles, and re-introduces more than 99% of lead back into the lead-acid battery supply chain.

The Battery Recycling Prize Contests

The competition consists of three phases that will fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to meet battery recycling needs. Each phase includes a contest period when participants work to rapidly advance their solutions. DOE invites anyone eligible — individually or as a team or entity — to compete to transform a conceptional solution into a product reality.

Watch this informational webinar for an overview of the rules, goals, timing, and submission tracks for the prize. View the official rules for Phase I. The rules for Phase II and Phase III will be available at a later date.

Phase I: Concept Development and Incubation — Applicants can submit a business model or an innovative solution and technology plan toward profitable collection, sorting and separation, storing and transporting (while rendering batteries safe or inert) of end-of-use and spent lithium-ion batteries. Applicants can submit concepts related to a single track, multiple tracks, or full end-to-end solutions for one or multiple applications (Consumer, Electric Vehicle, Industrial, Stationary). Each individual/team/entity can apply to more than one track, but can only enter one submission per track. Up to 25 winners will be selected at the end of Phase I to receive cash awards (at least $40,000) and to enter Phase II.

Phase II: Prototyping and Partnering — Participants design, simulate, and prototype a proof-of-concept solution for one or multiple applications (Consumer, Electric Vehicle, Industrial, Stationary). Participants are encouraged to incorporate winning ideas from various tracks. Based on end-to-end solutions and prototypes for one or multiple applications, up to 10 winners will be selected at the end of Phase II to receive cash awards (at least $250,000) and to enter Phase III.

Phase III: Pilot Validation — Winning participants from Phase II must substantially advance their end-to-end solutions from proof-of-prototype to a refined pilot of the technology. This could include building, demonstration, and analysis to validate a small-scale pilot prototype with a focus on solutions under real-world applications and scenarios for one or multiple applications (Consumer, Electric Vehicle, Industrial, Stationary). At the end of this phase, up to four winners will be selected to receive cash awards (at least $500,000).

In each phase, submissions will be evaluated by expert reviewers (Advisory Reviewers) and a federal consensus panel. The selection official will make the final determination based on those reviews.

Tracks of interest to this Battery Recycling Prize

Applicants have the option of applying to a single track or multiple tracks that have been identified as barriers in this challenge. The five tracks are: collection, separating and sorting, safe storage and transportation, reverse logistics, and other ideas. (Reverse logistics is the process of moving goods from their typical final destinations in order to capture value or for proper disposal.) Tracks are not meant to encompass all the challenges associated with increasing the volume of the lithium-ion battery recycling supply chain, but to offer pathways to approach the challenges. The five possible tracks are further explained below:

  • Track 1: Collection — Develop a system or systems to incentivize and increase collection volume; this can include development of infrastructure or distributed network, deployment of social media, or devising a new business model.
  • Track 2: Separation and Sorting — Create a system of automated sorting and separation that is more effective (faster, more accurate, and cheaper) than current technologies.
  • Track 3: Safe Storage and Transportation — Develop solutions that could render batteries safe or inert during storage and shipping for further downstream processing.
  • Track 4: Reverse Logistics — Conceive solutions that minimize the cost of moving batteries out of end users' hands to recycling facilities, smooth the recycling supply chain, and anticipate the flow of materials.
  • Track 5: Other Ideas — Devise a radical idea or solution not otherwise addressed in the challenge that meets its goals while spurring market innovation.

The intent of this Battery Recycling Prize is to:

  • Enable U.S.-based recyclers to reach economies of scale in their processes by providing higher volume feedstocks
  • Attract private, public, state, and local dollar investments to scale collection, storage, and transportation of spent and discarded lithium-ion batteries
  • Create new solutions and develop them from concepts to eventually recycle 90% of spent and discarded lithium-ion batteries
  • Bring together diverse technologies and entities/innovators/businesses that when combined can provide a more comprehensive solution to the challenges facing the battery recycling supply chain.

Solutions that help shape the future of battery recycling

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, logistic company, battery firm, waste and recycling planner, local or state stakeholder, facility or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can help transform battery recycling through the Battery Recycling Prize.

Learn about this Prize