Cobalt deficiency will become a big problem for electric vehiclesFebruary 25, 2020
This year, four million electric vehicles will be manufactured worldwide. By 2025, they will be 12 million. Most need batteries, the production of which requires lithium and cobalt – and the fever for their production has already begun. The shortage of batteries is forcing electric car manufacturers to revise production plans and even suspend production.
Last week, the Times reported that Jaguar Land Rover will suspend production of the I-Pace crossover due to empty warehouses at the battery supplier LG Chem. Mercedes halves its output for the same reason. The key problem is insufficient production capacity, the construction of new factories will only partially solve it, writes Wired UK.
The raw materials used to produce lithium batteries have caused geopolitical uprisings, trade wars, protests by human rights activists and environmentalists.
The worst situation is with cobalt. Unlike lithium, for the most part it is mined in only one place – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here 59% of the world stock of this element is concentrated. And now this is the most expensive component of batteries – the price per ton is from $ 30,000 to $ 35,000. And its reserves may simply not be enough. In the next decade, demand may 1.6 times exceed supply.
Some companies – for example, the Chinese CATL, with which Tesla is currently negotiating – are trying to abandon the use of cobalt in lithium batteries. Others offer recycling solutions for recycled materials.
According to Gavin Harper, an analyst at the Faraday Institution, there is currently no recycling method that can meet the growing demands of the automotive industry. The transition to a new type of transport requires batteries. So far, electric cars have enough other problems – price, power reserve, charging infrastructure – but as soon as they are solved, another will arise, with raw materials for batteries. And it’s worth thinking about its solution today.
The Japanese company Sumimoto Metal – the main partner of Panasonic – has developed a technology for the rapid extraction of rare metals from old batteries. The company is hastily building a factory and hopes to open a full-fledged recycling production in 2021.
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