Panasonic To Switch Out Controversial and Expensive Cobalt for Nickel in Its EV Batteries
Electric cars have always been plagued by a specter haunting the origins of battery materials, as the world’s main source of a major ingredient in current lithium-ion batteries from those used in cell phones to those in an electric car, the rare mineral cobalt, is mainly mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is known for its corruption and human rights violations, particularly with “artisanal miners” that are often children laborers.
Due to the metal’s scarcity and the worrying nature of its possible source, companies have for some time been working on both reducing the amount of cobalt in batteries (or developing systems that don’t use it at all) and trying to find better sources.
Now, though, it seems that Panasonic, which is one of the largest suppliers of electric vehicle batteries, wants to just give up on the metal entirely, and has announced that it is setting its sights on reducing its use over time, with a goal of completely cobalt-free batteries.
In a meeting with analysts, Panasonic’s automotive battery head Kenji Tamura said, “We have already cut down cobalt usage substantially. We are aiming to achieve zero usage in the near future, and development is underway.”
Instead of cobalt, then, Panasonic has said it is using far more nickel than before. The battery supplier would not be the first to look into this approach, as anonymous sources have already told Reuters that GM would be replacing cobalt with nickel as a cost-saving measure to make electric vehicles more profitable.
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