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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Dwindling Cobalt Supply Could Pose Problems For Electric Vehicles

      More electric vehicles mean more cobalt supply problems

    One of the key materials used in electric car batteries is cobalt. But there are growing concerns that the supply of cobalt is getting scarce as more and more automakers begin building electric cars.

    A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says cobalt shortages are expected to happen earlier than previously forecast. This issue possibly brings a big challenge to the rollout of electric vehicles over the next five to seven years.

    "The long lead time to bring on new mines and the concentration of cobalt reserves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo mean there is a real possibility of supply shocks in the early 2020s," analysts from BNEF wrote.

    "If capacity does not grow as planned, cobalt prices could continue to spike and there could be a major cobalt shortage. This would have serious implications on the electric vehicle market."

    The price of cobalt has tripled within the past two years as more automakers begin building electric vehicles. Peter Deneen, the managing director at consultancy EV-Metals Resources Group said in an email that the market price for cobalt has risen in the "prospect of supply constraints". But the price doesn't include the potential risk of political upheaval in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - accounts for more than two-thirds of mined cobalt.

    Concerns have automakers accelerating development of batteries that have smaller amounts of cobalt. Chinese automaker BYD is expected to introduce batteries that have a nickel-manganese-cobalt ratio of 8:1:1 by the end of this year. BMW is expected to follow in 2021 with a similar ratio. According to BNEF's report, this chemistry will account for 57 percent of EV batteries by 2030.

    There is also the idea of recycling batteries that could provide 100,000 metric tons of cobalt a year by 2030. But the amount would have to mean all batteries from consumer electronics are recycled. Currently, the recycling rates around between 25 to 50 percent according to the report.

    Source: Bloomberg via Automotive News (Subscription Required)

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    Wonder how the Solid State no Cobalt batteries will play. I think this will be the bigger game changer than reducing the amount of Cobalt in an existing battery.

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    1 hour ago, ocnblu said:

    The shortsighted plunge ahead into electric cars

    EVs comprise 1% of all new car sales, and that is optimistic. 

    Somebody in some lab will probably find a new way to create a battery without cobalt unless multiple new discoveries of cobalt ore are found and mined soon.

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    3 hours ago, riviera74 said:

    EVs comprise 1% of all new car sales, and that is optimistic. 

    Somebody in some lab will probably find a new way to create a battery without cobalt unless multiple new discoveries of cobalt ore are found and mined soon.

     

    53 minutes ago, daves87rs said:

    Thinking they will find a way...

    There are new deposits, but it requires bringing into that country modern technology and of course no one but China is willing to put people into a place that is so unstable and China seems to want to keep it manual child labor to have total control.

    Lucky with Solid State both Japan and the US has solid state prototypes that do not need cobalt and could be in production by 2020. 

    Interesting times we live in and the fast changing world of auto's.

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    7 hours ago, dfelt said:

     

    There are new deposits, but it requires bringing into that country modern technology and of course no one but China is willing to put people into a place that is so unstable and China seems to want to keep it manual child labor to have total control.

    Lucky with Solid State both Japan and the US has solid state prototypes that do not need cobalt and could be in production by 2020. 

    Interesting times we live in and the fast changing world of auto's.

    Yep, seems like everything is changing.....money, models, everything!

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    36 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

    Support Chinese child labor, buy an EV! 

    Every electronic device that has a battery currently uses Cobalt. So in that regards you could say, Support Child Labor, buy a Smartphone. Support Child labor, buy a laptop, support child labor, pretty much any battery powered device that is Li based.

    http://www.visualcapitalist.com/cobalt-precarious-supply-chain/

    This shows that while China is getting all their Cobalt from the DRC and supporting child labor, Japan and the US actually are getting their Cobalt from other sources with the main one being Cobalt Ontario, in the middle between the Nickel capital of the World and one of the most famous Gold camps.

    As I have stated around our Forum, Solid State batteries are the future and they DO NOT need Cobalt. In fact the Nickel based Solid State batteries could be totally handled just for the North America by Canada. So clean green EV auto's I still see as our future. 

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    Stuff comes from various locations..just the nature of business..there is always unpleasant aspects to manufacturing, such is life.   most consumer electronics run on LI batteries; can't live like its 1699 like the Amish.  

    Sounds like an artificial substitute for cobalt needs to be created.  Maybe something that can be 3D printed en masse..

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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    1 hour ago, dfelt said:

    Every electronic device that has a battery currently uses Cobalt. So in that regards you could say, Support Child Labor, buy a Smartphone.

    The difference is everybody already has a smart phone and nobody is here saying they're the greatest thing trying to get more people to buy them, like EVs. 

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    20 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    They've already got R&D underway to replace it.  

    I would have assumed so if just to try and find something with more capacity in a smaller volume. 

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    26 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

    I would have assumed so if just to try and find something with more capacity in a smaller volume. 

    Exactly.  Even ignoring the potential rare earth mineral shortage, they are trying to get better energy density from batteries and it most cases that seems to be entirely different chemical compositions. 

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    31 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

    I would have assumed so if just to try and find something with more capacity in a smaller volume. 

     

    3 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    Exactly.  Even ignoring the potential rare earth mineral shortage, they are trying to get better energy density from batteries and it most cases that seems to be entirely different chemical compositions. 

    Currently the Nissan Leaf 2.0 uses No Cobalt as they use a Manganese / Lithium battery design. Tesla and GM are both looking at a Solid State replacement that would also not use Cobalt.

    I liked this story as it talks about Bye Bye Lithium / Cobalt, Hello Calcium Ion Batteries.

    Financial Post Story

    Yet while GM, Toyota, Hyundai, LG are all working on viable commercial production solid state Calcium Ion Batteries, the stepping stone seems to have come from a small start up in Tucson Arizona. Sion Power has come up with a commercial viable Lithium / Sulphur battery that provides double the energy density of existing Lithium-ion batteries today and improved safety.

    This company was infused in 2012 with a $50 million investment from German Chemical Major BASF to turn this idea into a commercial reality and they are now there. 2014 they tested the batteries with Airbus in a solar record breaking 14 flight using solar cells and these batteries for storage.

    Sion has now just LIcensed LG Chem TLD of Korea to start production of these new Lithium-Sulphur batteries for auto use. Example is that in a current Chevrolet Bolt battery pack at 238 miles of range for LIthium-Cobalt, now in a Lithium-Sulphur battery that would be 476 miles of range.

    Further info on Rechargeable Calcium-Ion Batteries can be found here: https://cen.acs.org/articles/94/web/2016/01/Rechargeable-Calcium-Ion-Battery.html

    So what was an Idea in 2012 for Lithium-Sulphur batteries, proven in 2014 and now in 2018 going into production for EV Auto's to come is what I believe we can see for Calcium-Ion Batteries. This means that we can possibly see these dense batteries in production for EV auto's around 2024 to 2026.

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    Found this story published in August 2017 "10 Alternatives to Lithium-Ion batteries".

    https://dgit.com/10-alternatives-lithium-ion-batteries-4242/

    This covers both the pro's and con's of each one but the list goes as follows:

    1. Hydrogen fuel cells
    2. Lithium-Sulfur
    3. Graphene Supercapacitors
    4. Redox Flow Batteries
    5. Aluminum-Graphite Batteries
    6. Bioelectrochemical batteries
    7. Solar Panels
    8. Powered Roads
    9. Thin Film Batteries
    10. Solid State Batteries
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    Seems recently a number of scientist are looking to replace the toxic Cobalt Cathode of Lithium-Ion batteries with a green solution that is actually plant based.

    https://www.zmescience.com/ecology/environmental-issues/green-battery-from-purpurn-04234324/

    Seems the Madder Plant which has been used for thousands of years as a dye also is an excellent cathode component.

    Cobalt requires a large amount of heat to melt and mold into the proper Cathode component of Lithium-Ion batteries. Now at room temperature, the Madder Root can be saves all the energy spent on cobalt in a green approach to a cleaner battery.

    They admit they are years from a commercial production solution, but right now the results they have gotten even in testing of this organic green battery have been very positive in charging / discharging cycles with stable results.

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    14 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    Found this story published in August 2017 "10 Alternatives to Lithium-Ion batteries".

    https://dgit.com/10-alternatives-lithium-ion-batteries-4242/

    This covers both the pro's and con's of each one but the list goes as follows:

    1. Hydrogen fuel cells
    2. Lithium-Sulfur
    3. Graphene Supercapacitors
    4. Redox Flow Batteries
    5. Aluminum-Graphite Batteries
    6. Bioelectrochemical batteries
    7. Solar Panels
    8. Powered Roads
    9. Thin Film Batteries
    10. Solid State Batteries

    Solar panels are not an alternative to batteries.

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    16 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    Solar panels are not an alternative to batteries.

    That was my thinking too, but I do understand from the engineering process where they are hoping to increase the efficiency of solar panels to where an auto could gather light, convert it and power the auto.

    Yes big leap of SciFi thinking, but I see where they are coming from. :P 

    Dreams do some times become reality.

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    Just now, dfelt said:

    That was my thinking too, but I do understand from the engineering process where they are hoping to increase the efficiency of solar panels to where an auto could gather light, convert it and power the auto.

    Yes big leap of SciFi thinking, but I see where they are coming from. :P 

    Dreams do some times become reality.

    The only thing the solar panels that are on hybrids/EVs do today is keep the interior cool on hot days so that the main battery isn't drained by HVAC.

    But even then, it only runs while parked. 

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    8 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    The only thing the solar panels that are on hybrids/EVs do today is keep the interior cool on hot days so that the main battery isn't drained by HVAC.

    But even then, it only runs while parked. 

    True, but think of efficient solar cells that send the power to a Graphene SuperCapacitor that they uses the stored energy for powering the auto. Possible 🤔

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    3 hours ago, dfelt said:

    True, but think of efficient solar cells that send the power to a Graphene SuperCapacitor that they uses the stored energy for powering the auto. Possible 🤔

    Sure, if you let the car sit in the Arizona sun for about 4 months.  There just isn't enough surface area on the car to collect enough energy to do that. 

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