Jordan Blum, editorial director, Hart Energy: We are here at CERAWeek in Houston. I'm joined by John Busbee, the CEO and co-founder of Xerion Advanced Battery Corp. Thank you so much for joining us.

John Busbee, CEO and co-founder, Xerion: My pleasure. Thank you.

JB: So getting into the whole battery space, can I get you to talk about the importance of building up more U.S. infrastructure when it's a space that's so dominated by China right now?

JB: Yeah, in the United States, we're kind of behind the power curve. We relied on Chinese manufacturing. Europe, about 10 years ago, really responded really strongly. So now that with the geopolitical tensions, I think it's extremely important from a strategic domestic priority to do that. But the problem is that you have to raise the whole industry at the same time. It has to be holistic. You can't have a materials company without a battery company to sell it to. On the other hand, if you have a battery company that can't have access to the materials, especially with potential embargoes and tariffs and things, then it'll die on the vine as well. So I think strategically raising the whole thing as the industry matures is important. My background is U.S. military, so I was already really passionate about it before these things got to that point.

JB: Very good. I see your tagline is, you know, that "batteries are the oil of the 21st century." We're at a big energy conference here. Can I get you to elaborate on that theme?

JB: Yeah. My opinion is that you use all the tools in your tool belt. Batteries aren't shifting away from oil, away from petrochemicals, as much as they are, in my opinion, moving from oil to natural gas, which we have in an abundance and burns cleanly. And that leaves our oil reserves for more high-value products like plastics and things like that.

JB: And now you've got Exxon Mobil and others starting to get into lithium extraction in the U.S.

JB: Right. And so it is just a shift. I think it'll be a really successful shift if they do it slowly enough. So it'll occur kind of at the natural commercial pace. And it's kind of gotten kickstarted with what the current administration has done with the BIL [Bipartisan Infrastructure Law] funds specifically for batteries, and then continuing on with the domestic requirements for the Inflation Reduction Act. So I think that has specifically helped the battery industry, but it is going to continue to go down that road that just may make it happen a little faster.

JB: Very good. So you all are focused on more higher-performance lithium-ion batteries amongst other things. There's the whole debate of lithium-ion versus solid-state batteries and what kind of evolution we're seeing there. Can I get you to compare and contrast or talk about how maybe there's room for all of them?

JB: There is room for all of them. It is a similar thing, like I said, tools in the tool belt. Anything that's really any technology that's driven by materials, it's a very slow adoption. I mean, University of Texas developed the lithium-ion battery in the late '80s, and it was actually first commercialized by Sony in 1991. So we've been 40 years just at one or two chemistries in lithium-ion. Lithium-ion is still a very good material. Lithium, it's hard to beat how light lithium is, but then as you move forward, there'll be cheaper versions of that in terms of the iron-phosphate batteries and then getting into sodium and lithium-sulfur. But they all have slightly different uses and the whole field is expanding so rapidly that I believe there's room for all. I think it's going to have a robust growth curve with a few hiccups for the next 15, 20 years.

JB: Very good. Let me let you talk about Xerion a little bit and just kind of your process and the direct plate system.

JB: Yeah. So we have two core technologies. One is the direct plate system where we directly electroplate battery materials, specifically cathodes in a molten solid electroplating bath. And the fact that electroplating is a refinement technique means that we are refining low-purity materials, synthesizing the finer battery material and depositing it on the battery electrodes all in one step. And so we're skipping a bunch of steps. So the resulting architecture from that electroplating process actually has a lot of inherent advantages, most of which we didn't realize when we started it. And so we have a range of performance properties in the battery that are better. And we also, because it's more efficient, lowers the carbon footprint and uses a lot less energy. We also have a lower cost, as well. That's kind of where we started, but we already knew that because the electro-planning process itself is a refinement technique. We could, instead of just going there in one step, we could also make some of the intermediates and a cost effective way, which is really important domestically because right now everybody's sending almost all of the cobalt and a lot of the nickel to Asia, specifically to China, to get refined.

And we realize that we had the technology to do that here, first using sources from other places. But then as new mines and new sites are further developed, we can use the low-purity nickel, including Class 1 and Class 2, the hard rock, lithium, the lithium directly from the brines based on our direct lithium extraction. And so we have a real opportunity to help insert that into that space where I said we needed it holistically in terms of supplying the raw materials that people need for the battery plants they've already built.

JB: And how do you see all this fitting into the U.S. and then more broadly, as well, EV adoption curve? I mean, it's happening in the U.S. but lagging behind other countries like China and Norway, et cetera?

JB: Yeah, it's slowed down. And my personal thinking on why it slowed down, I mean aside, you have some global issues with inflation, which has really slowed down China. And then some of the slowdown here I think has been because of some of the high interest rates and the concern about charging — the charging infrastructure is still catching up. And I think as those start to catch up, it'll continue. It is been growing the whole time. It's just the growth has slowed down. But I think [as] more and more people get them, they'll realize that it's a lower maintenance car and it's fun to drive. And so it won't be so much driven by the early adopters who are concerned about the green aspects of it. And just because it's a practical car, and then people will realize, Hey, we're finding effective use for our natural gas.

JB: Great. Well, thank you so much for joining us here at CERAWeek. Really appreciate it. To read and watch more, please visit online