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Volvo Uses Blockchain to Track Car Battery Materials

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Volvo XC40 Recharge Battery Package
Photo: Volvo

Following the launch of its first all-electric car, the XC40 Recharge, Volvo has announced it will use blockchain technology to track the use of cobalt in its batteries, the first automaker to do so.

The Swedish company says that “traceability of raw materials used in the production of lithium ion batteries, such as cobalt, is one of the main sustainability challenges faced by car makers.”

Blockchain is a digital ledger technology that should, in theory, greatly enhance the transparency and reliability with which the origin of a material can be determined.

Developed to support the bitcoin cryptocurrency, blockchain was quickly identified as a method organizations could use to store data that is inherently resistant to modification, such as hacking.

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A blockchain is essentially a list of records in which each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, ensuring that anyone seeking to maliciously alter a block would have to hack the entire chain, making it highly unrealistic.

Volvo says that in its case, data in each block would include the origin of the cobalt used in a battery as well as key attributes, such as its size and weight. It would also include the “chain of custody and information establishing that participants’ behavior is consistent with OECD supply chain guidelines.”

The automaker is working with China’s CATL and South Korea’s LG Chem, which globally supply its batteries, as well as with leading global blockchain technology firms to implement this enhanced traceability of cobalt.

“We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials,” said Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo Cars. “With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.”

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