President Joe Biden addressed an audience on May 22 in Seoul, South Korea, to celebrate Hyundai's decision to build electric vehicles in Georgia. Biden observed that "electric vehicles are good for our climate goals, but they're also good for jobs, and they're good for business."

But the importance of U.S. investment in EVs and EV supply chains is broader than climate goals and jobs. EVs are critical to the future of transportation, mobility, and the future of national security. Mobilizing the auto manufacturing industry to further embrace EV development will bring tactical and operational advantages for the U.S. military on a changing battlefield. It can also serve as a catalyst to break reliance on China's dominance of the supply of materials vital not just to EVs, but also to a range of defense capabilities and activities.

The global EV market is growing. Sales of EVs doubled in 2021 over the previous year. As much as American EV manufacturers are pushing EV development, stark imbalances remain in the supply chain for EVs that all tilt toward reliance on China for the rare earth minerals critical to scaling EV and battery development and production here and in allied and partner states.

China controls 85% of all battery-ready cobalt in the world and dominates global supply of other rare earth elements necessary for EV batteries and other parts. According to the International Energy Agency's Global Outlook on EVs 2022 report, 77% of the global battery supply chain is based in China while only 7% is based in the U.S. Similarly, more than half of the EV supply chain is based in China while only 10% is based in the U.S.

This reliance generates compromising vulnerabilities in a growing market area as well as a capability critical to the future of national security and defense. Beijing has repeatedly shown a willingness to use its economic leverage, including its dominant position in rare earths, as a cudgel to punish and coerce states and private companies it perceives as being hostile or taking actions that do not align with China's view of the world.

EVs are increasingly viewed as critical to U.S. and other allied efforts to meet the requirements of a changing battlefield on which energy-hungry systems and vehicles will feature. EVs will be critical to future military operations in which EVs will increase tactical vehicle survivability by reducing vehicle noise and thermal signatures, improve handling and range, allow tactical EVs to charge soldier equipment, and, over time, reduce logistics and sustainment burdens.

EVs are also part of the Defense Department's efforts to reduce the harmful emissions of a fossil fuel-powered force. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called climate change an "existential threat to our nation's security" and transitioning to EV fleets would bolster our collective security against rising seas, extreme weather events, and the other ramifications of climate change. With these extensive benefits in mind, the U.S. Army has announced plans to transition to a hybrid tactical vehicle fleet by 2035 and a fully electric one by 2050.

The trend lines are clear: EVs and hybrids will be an increasingly significant part of the mix of commercial, public, and military transportation options over the next decade and beyond. What is less clear is whether the U.S. will be able to develop robust domestic manufacturing capabilities to ensure we are in control of the electric vehicle future, or if we will rely on hostile actors like China to supply the materials and products core to EV production.

The Biden administration has taken encouraging early steps to address this supply chain vulnerability.

On May 2, the Biden administration announced $3.1 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to boost American manufacturing, processing, and recycling of batteries and components critical for EVs. The law also includes $7.5 billion for EV chargers, in addition to private sector capital already funding the expansion of EV charging availability.

Biden has also taken a range of executive actions to increase production capacity of the rare earth minerals needed for these batteries. Tax credits for consumers who buy electric vehicles, especially those with U.S.-made batteries, could also incentivize the type of investment required to scale both the demand and supply of EVs and batteries in the U.S. required to break China's dominance of the industry.

The pace of EV adoption is accelerating. In a decade, lithium, cobalt, and rare earth metals will be as essential for transporting people and goods as petroleum is today. The question is not if electric vehicles will be the future of transportation, but whether the U.S. will be able to break a foreign adversary's control of the components necessary to power our electric future and ensure the resilience of our national and economic security.

John Wharton served the Nation for more than three decades, retiring as a Major General in the United States Army. He most recently served as Commanding General of the United States Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.