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Getting more electric vehicles on the road will require more batteries to power them. But some of the minerals used to make lithium-ion batteries are in short supply. And China controls much of the existing industry.

“Without these materials, we won’t be able to fully transition to this clean energy economy that we’re all really striving and pushing for,” says Megan O’Connor, CEO and co-founder of a startup called Nth Cycle.

Her company is testing technology that uses electrical currents to extract and refine minerals from mine waste, low-grade ore, and recycled battery waste.

“So the minerals that we’re able to extract are cobalt nickel, manganese — three materials you find in battery cathodes today,” O’Connor says.

She says Nth Cycle’s extraction system is small and modular.

“So that we can actually go to wherever the waste is instead of having to worry about shipping all that waste to one centralized facility,” she says.

And she says it uses less than half as much energy and emits only a quarter as much carbon pollution as traditional mineral refining technologies.

So she says it could offer a more sustainable way to access untapped mineral resources in North America — and help the U.S. transition to a clean transportation future.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media