The bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was signed by President Joe Biden on November 15, is often described in shorthand as “roads, bridges, and tunnels.” But it also includes support for vehicle electrification, power infrastructure modernization, and public transit projects, all of which will boost demand for aluminum in the coming years. Here is a breakdown of some of the relevant programs and how they will impact aluminum.
Roads and bridges - The bill reauthorizes the surface transportation program for another five years, providing $297.9 billion in funding for existing and new federal aid programs through 2026 and another $54.6 billion in emergency funding over five years for highway and other infrastructure. Forty-billion dollars are specifically earmarked for bridge rehabilitation. As a report from the Aluminum Association, an industry group, pointed out, 45,000 of the nation’s bridges in poor condition. “Aluminum alloys,” the report said, “allow for reduced maintenance and a greater service lifespan at a cheaper cost over the entire life cycle of a bridge.”
Public transit - The bill appropriates $20 billion in one-time emergency funding for public transit programs. The Aluminum Association report noted that the metal “is used extensively as a building material in large public transportation building projects.”
Grid infrastructure - The bill appropriates $15.7 billion for electric grid infrastructure, including $6 billion to help utilities harden their infrastructures to better withstand natural disasters and cybersecurity threats, and $3 billion for the existing Department of Energy Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program. The bill also creates a new program to finance construction of new transmission lines, upgrading of existing lines, and increasing connectivity between smaller grids and the national infrastructure. “Aluminum has for decades been the leading material used in wiring power grids,” said the association report.
Solar power - The bill provides investments of $355 million through fiscal year 2025 to fund demonstration projects for commercial-scale energy storage and another $150 million for long-duration storage systems. It also adds $80 million in appropriations through fiscal year 2025 for existing solar energy research and development programs and requires the U.S. Energy Department to report on the viability of locating solar projects on active and inactive mining lands. “Aluminum is also vital for solar power,” noted the report, “with more than 85% of solar photovoltaic components made from aluminum.”
Vehicle electrification The law establishes a grant program to finance a publicly accessible electric-vehicle charging infrastructure, with priorities designated for rural areas, low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, communities with low ratios of parking spaces to households, and communities with high ratios of multi-unit houses to single-family households. “Aluminum chassis, shock towers, motor housings, battery housings, and internal panels allow electric vehicles to travel further and safer,” said the association report. “Aluminum is also a key component of the charging networks that allow these vehicles to refuel.”
Besides all of these specific programs supported by the infrastructure bill, the Aluminum Association report noted the connection between infrastructure and many sectors of the economy. The industry, it said, “depends on reliable infrastructure to ship billions of pounds of aluminum across the country each year.”