American-Made Challenges

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Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize

Identify innovative solutions for collecting, sorting, storing, and transporting spent lithium-ion batteries.
stage:
Demo Day (Voluntary)
prize:
$5.5 million in total prizes
Overview

Challenge Overview

Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize

Innovation happens when the right resources, people, and passion come together to address a challenge. With the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize, teams of creative individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses will advance conceptual solutions to prototypes and finally to pilot demonstrations to address challenges with the lithium-ion battery recycling supply chain. The goal of this $5.5-million phased prize competition is to develop and demonstrate processes that, when scaled, have the potential to capture 90% of all discarded or spent lithium-ion batteries in the United States for eventual recovery of key materials for re-introduction into the U.S. supply chain.

 

Phase II: Prototyping and Partnering 

In Phase II, the 15 winning teams from the Phase I Contest will advance their winning concepts into end-to-end solutions that demonstrate a viable business model that can be scaled. An end-to-end solution, for the purposes of this contest, collects lithium-ion batteries at the end of their useful life and delivers them to a facility where they can be recycled. The proposed solution may or may not include an intermediate step for secondary use. Phase II submissions should include all four Phase I tracks (Collection, Separating and Sorting, Safe Storage and Transportation, and Reverse Logistics) in a single solution. 

Up to 10 winners in Phase II will be awarded up to $2,500,000 distributed equally among each winner. In addition to the cash prizes, winners will also receive a non-cash prize of up to $100,000 in vouchers that may be redeemed at national labs and qualified members of the American-Made Network. Voucher funds can be used to validate or support the demonstration of a full end-to-end solution during the Phase III contest.

 

 

$5.5 million in incentives for innovation

The three phases of contests will fast-track efforts to find innovative solutions to solve current challenges associated with collecting, sorting, storing, and transporting spent/discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling.

 

Tracks of interest to this Battery Recycling Prize

Phase II submissions should include the four Phase I tracks in a single solution. 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 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.

 

Who can compete

Per the Phase I Rules, only Phase I winners may compete in Phase II. This is due to the structure of the contest, which allows participants to advance their solutions further in each phase. 

Interested parties can still participate in the contest by either partnering with a winning team to compete in Phase II or by joining the American Made Network. In addition to the cash prize, winning teams of Phase II will receive $100,000 in vouchers to access tools, equipment, and expertise from Voucher Service Providers within the network. 

 

 

For more information about the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize, refer to the official rules.

Guidelines
Timeline
Updates 9
Forum 33
Community 384
Entries
Resources
FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

You can find all of the entries here on HeroX at on the Entries page. We have also added a new Partners page highlighting the winning teams and their contact information. Winning teams must provide the Prize Administrator with a signed consent form to have their contact information added to the Partners page

Partnering is simply a way to strengthen your submission for Phase II and to provide a more comprehensive solution to the battery logistics issue. As stated in the rules, partnering is not a requirement, however, it is encouraged, due to the variety of skill sets needed to comprehensively address this issue.

A maximum of 15 projects will be considered and they must have the same "team name" as the 15 winning submissions. No additional entries will be accepted. 

Yes. Groups that did not win in Phase I can partner with winning teams to submit a concept for Phase II. In order to be eligible for Phase II, a submission must include one of the leading team members from a winning team.  Visit the Entries tab to see all Phase I entries. 

Over the next nine months we will be showcasing the capabilities available at the National Labs through this voucher program. We plan to have representatives of these National Labs give a short presentation of these capabilities at the Demo Days partnering event on June 3. 

You can always email or post on the forum for answers to any questions that come up during Phase II.  

You can only lead one but you can participate in multiple submissions. This will be clarified in the upcoming Partnering Webinar on March 11, 2020.  

It is up to your team to determine the agreement between your partnerships. Each Phase II winning submission will receive one check to distribute among partners accordingly. The Prize Administrator will not be involved in inter-partnership disputes.  To elaborate further, we will be hosting an in-depth Partnering Webinar on March 11, 2020. 

Yes, but it’s quick and easy. Just click the “Accept Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. All you need to provide is your name and email address.

If you have a question not answered in the FAQ, we recommend that you post it in the Forum where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it.

Or, you may contact a challenge administrator directly at BatteryRecyclingPrize@nrel.gov

Thank you for submitting your question to the forum on Battery Recycling Prize. We value your participation and will do our best to respond to your questions/concerns within five to seven business days. We thank you for your patience and interest.

Unfortunately, a national laboratory cannot compete.  But individuals from a national laboratory can win an award provided he/she is NOT competing in an official capacity of the laboratory.

No, if you are a contest winner you are receiving the prize for meeting or exceeding the contest goals. 


 

If you encounter an issue when attempting to submit an entry to the challenge, you may need to contact HeroX or the Prize Administrator.

You may try to connect with HeroX using the online form which appears in the bottom right corner of your browser window, it says Leave a Message.

You may also send a message to the Prize Administrator inbox at challenge@nrel.gov.

Please allow at least 1 business day for a response. 

The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office and Advanced Manufacturing Office and administered and executed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
 

No. Lead-acid batteries are already collected and recycled at a rate of 99%. However, lithium-ion batteries are only collected and recycled at a rate of less than 5% so we are looking for innovative ideas to cost effectively and efficiently recycle critical materials from lithium-ion batteries.

Yes. We encourage you to promote your technology to schools, battery companies, local electronics organizations and other technical outlets.

For Phase I, yes, you may submit one solution that focuses on one of the tracks.

Eligible teams/participants can participate in and submit innovations for multiple prize tracks; however, eligible teams/participants are required to select a single track per submission and are limited to one solution per submission. Eligible teams/participants who would like to apply to multiple tracks need to submit separate solution packages for each track to which they apply.

Both U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents are eligible to apply as individuals. In the case of an individual, whether participating singly or in a group, shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. All business entities must be incorporated in the United States and conduct any work on the prize in the United States. As authority to conduct this prize comes from a U.S. statute (15 U.S.C. 3719), the rules must comply with the eligibility requirements contained in the statute.

We recommend that you view this video in the HeroX Knowledge Base (https://www.herox.com/help/153-team-forming-and-submitting-an-entry?search=true). Please let us know if you have additional questions that you weren't able to have answered by watching the video.

Participants may partner with any non-federal entities and/or organizations, so long as submissions adhere to the Official Rules. Individuals and teams seeking experts to partner with may visit the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize Community page within HeroX and click on the “Team Matching” button.

Federal entities and federal employees are also not eligible to win any prize contests in this program. Federal grantees may not use federal funds to develop submissions. Federal contractors may not use federal funds from a contract to develop prize competition submissions or to fund efforts in support of a prize competition submission. A participating entity shall not be deemed ineligible because the entity used federal facilities or consulted with federal employees during a competition if the facilities and employees are made available to all entities participating in the competition on an equitable basis.

Yes, you may be a stakeholder in two different submissions. A person/team/entity may serve as a participant in multiple submissions. Each submission should cover only one proposed solution per track.  If a participant has multiple distinct solutions (ideas, concepts) per track, they should describe them in separate submissions. 

 

Unfortunately, no.   This prize focuses on the collection, sorting, storing, and transporting of spent/discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling.  Technical processes to recover valuable components after the delivery of end-of-life batteries to recycling centers are beyond the scope of this particular competition.

The recording of the April 10, 2019 webinar at https://www.herox.com/BatteryRecyclingPrize/resource/335. The zip file contains the webinar recording, slides, and transcript.

Local governments are eligible to apply and win awards provided that they do not use federal funds to develop concepts and submission packages.

The aim of Track 1 Collection is to significantly increase the amount of batteries collected through distribution networks, collection points, incentivizing approaches, promotion, marketing, education, and many aspects of human behavior. Track 4 Reverse Logistics is for moving those collected batteries from collection sites to the recycling facilities in the most efficient, optimized, and cost-effective ways.

You may submit multiple submissions across multiple tracks.  Each submission should cover only one proposed solution per track.  If a participant has multiple distinct solutions (ideas, concepts) per track, they should describe them in separate submissions. 

As this is a prize, participants are free to use the funding they receive for any phase in this contest for anything they deem appropriate. 

Only one image can be uploaded in the HeroX submission form. However, if you have multiple images, you can include them as part of your 5-10-page proposal.

The rules specifically prohibit any lobbying activity, which would include advocacy for changes in legislation.

DOE/NREL staff cannot give feedback on individual team’s ideas while the competition is open as this could provide an unfair advantage to teams receiving such feedback.  DOE also reserves the right to place a submission in a separate track than identified by the participant. 

 

All teams must be comprised of otherwise eligible individuals or organizations who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

A template for the proposal can be found on the Resources page of the HeroX website. The rules require that proposals be submitted in PDF format. The Summary Slide in PowerPoint should be submitted in PDF format, too.

Previous winners of DOE grants for EV battery programs are eligible to receive these funds provided that previous federal funds are not used to develop and incubate concept submissions.

The Department of Energy's intent here is to motivate American innovators to develop and demonstrate profitable business and technology strategies to significantly increase collection of lithium-ion batteries.

Currently, lithium-ion batteries are only recycled at a rate of less than 5% in the U.S. The current recycling supply chain for collecting, sorting, storing, transporting, and recycling of lithium-ion batteries is limited, which is where the motivation for the prize came from.

The reviewers will be from industry, academia, relevant government agencies, local and state agencies, and other subject matter experts. Reviewers shall not have affiliation with the participants that will create a conflict of interest and will be required to sign conflict of interest and non-disclosure agreements. 

The prize focuses on the logistics before the actual recycling step, including the collection, sorting, storing, and transporting of spent/discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling. Technical processes to recover valuable components after the delivery of end-of-life batteries to recycling centers are beyond the scope of this project and will not be considered.

University students are encouraged to apply, either as an individual or as a university team! Please see page 19 and 20 of the Rules document for more information on eligibility, such as U.S. citizenship and permanent residency.

No, the main focus of this activity is collection and recycling of lithium-ion batteries. 

Participants may submit multiple submissions across multiple tracks.  Each submission should cover only one proposed solution per track.  If a participant has multiple distinct solutions (ideas, concepts) per track, they should describe them in separate submissions. 

Unfortunately, no. As authority to conduct this prize comes from a U.S. statute (15 U.S.C. 3719), the rules must comply with the eligibility requirements contained in the statute. Only U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents are eligible to apply.  In the case of an individual, whether participating singly or in a group, shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. All business entities must be incorporated in the United States and conduct any work on the prize in the United States.

A sponsor is an entity that is not participating in developing an applicant’s solution but who can provide support to the applicant/participant in a number of ways, including, but not limited to: serving on the advisory board, providing letters of support for the proposal as there is value in the outcome of the proposed solution, indicating plan to partner during Phase II or III of the prize (if the applicant is a Phase I winner), or even providing (non-federal) in-kind or cash contributions. In your submission, you may provide information as to how a sponsor has been engaged in supporting your submission.

The maximum of ten pages for the proposal includes the following sections: Executive Summary, Team Composition and External Support, Market Validation and Analysis, Planned Execution and Allocation of Funds, and Detailed Technical Explanation. The cover sheet/page, bibliography, citations (references), and any letters of support from companies will not count toward the ten-page limit. (Please refer to pages 18-19 of the Official Rules Document).

Thank you for your question. To eliminate any apparent conflicting statements, the Competitor Agreement has been replaced with the Official Rules Document that describes the rules of the challenge.

A team leader can submit multiple submissions to one or more tracks on behalf of the team. This is allowed by the rules. To submit multiple submissions for a single team, follow this process:

  • Register on HeroX,
  • Create a team,
  • Click the Accept the Challenge button,
  • Enter a submission (input required information and upload supporting files),
  • Submit the submission,
  • Click on the option that allows you to preview your first submission (which allows for editing and changes to the submission if needed), then
  • From this screen you will see a button labeled “Begin Another Entry”  Click on this button to prepare and preview the additional second submission.

Please be sure that you submit your submissions. Teams may submit multiple submissions for the same track, with different ideas or concepts addressing that topic.

Participants can be a member/team leader on multiple teams, but they will have to create a new and separate HeroX user account, using a different email address, for each team they wish to participate on and/or lead. Unfortunately, HeroX will only allow a single user to participate on one team. If a user is added to a second team, that user will be removed from the original team they joined. We thank the participants for their understanding and diligence working within the software. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

See footnote number 10 on page 6 of the Rules. 90% recovery means 90% of individual batteries produced: out of 10 batteries produced, 9 are recovered and delivered to a recycler. This 90% applies to solutions for individual market sectors (consumer electronics, electric vehicles (EV), industrial, grid, etc.) as well. 

As indicated on page 18 of the Official Rules, the Team Composition and External Support section should provide information on individual member biographies, team experience and qualifications, external advisers (e.g., a board), or external sponsorship. The reason for the ten-page limit is for a more efficient review process given the size of the Phase I award (minimum of $40,000 per submission). The proposal should stand on its own and not on any external materials such as LinkedIn profiles or other URLs. Concise member biographies and entity profiles are expected in this section. 

The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize is focused on identifying innovative solutions for collecting, sorting, storing, and transporting all spent and discarded lithium-ion batteries.  Ideas and prototypes focused on developing and producing new battery designs and chemistries are not within the scope of this Recycling Prize.

Today less than 5 percent of spent lithium-ion batteries are collected for recycling. The lithium ion battery prize is designed to bridge the gap to recovering and recycling 90% of all end-of-the-life lithium-ion batteries.  The goal of the prize is to incentivize American entrepreneurs (including existing companies involved in lithium-ion recycling logistics) 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.

Any solution that significantly increases the capture of lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling is of interest to the prize. Page 8 of the Rules indicates that “consumer awareness of both the ability and importance of proper LIB recycling is still somewhat low,” and  “limited infrastructure and awareness act as barriers to recycling efforts. Participants are encouraged to devise a system or systems to incentivize recycling: this can include development of infrastructure, or devising a new business model, among other strategies.”

The team leader is required to register, and encouraged to do so on behalf of the entire team, and submit a package. It is optional for other team members to register – each registered team member will be required to also sign and submit a user agreement. 

As indicated in FAQ # 40, any letters of support from companies will not count toward the ten-page limit. The letters of support could be included in the Full Submission Package (see Submission Proposal Template) and uploaded as PDF file format under Create Submission.

Generally Universities are either non-profit organizations or part of a state government.  If this is the case with your university, then the university is not an eligible entity to compete.  One way for competitors to submit a submission package under an eligible entity would be to create a business entity by incorporating, or otherwise forming a legal business entity through the Secretary of State of a state of your choice.  

Partners