Cobalt, like lithium, will eventually become the annoying subjects of the electric car again. Now that the energy transition has been launched in the automotive sector, questions about production and battery technologies should come back all the more strongly on the scene.
Each traditional manufacturer, who has had to comply with increasingly stringent regulations, will now be expected at the turn for his respect for the environment… and for human rights. All responsibility will fall to them in the event of a problem. Mercedes last week talked about their electric car action plan.
“Responsible and sustainable”
Overall, Mercedes wants to follow in Tesla’s footsteps. Initially, the supply of cobalt and lithium is not excluded. Battery technologies cannot yet turn to an alternative, and the only development prospects concern a reduction in the use of cobalt and a strict selection of partner suppliers.
Because in parallel with the questions for the environment, the extraction of cobalt is a big problem of working conditions. Last year, in December, tech giants – including Tesla – got caught on the subject. On December 17, a very heavy trial brought to light the problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo (60% of world cobalt production).
In the pages of the trial it was noted that “Young children who mine cobalt are not simply forced to work full time, reveals the pages of the document, adding that it it is extremely dangerous extraction work to the detriment [de] their studies and their future ”.
Even heavier, the newspaper The Guardian, who was able to report on the complaint, reported that the trial raised serious security concerns in these mines. “They are regularly mutilated and killed by the collapse of tunnels and other known dangers common to the exploitation of cobalt in the DRC”.
Mercedes, to justify its obligation to continue to source these components, has undertaken to establish “A standard for responsible mining”. The firm indicated that in the future, “We will only work with suppliers who agree to comply with these requirements”.
Read also: our test of the Mercedes EQC 400
Prepare for an outing
The dependence of manufacturers on cobalt will only be said to be “responsible” if its output is not overlooked. Here, Mercedes is less transparent than Tesla (during its “Battery Day”), but still claims to have started the study of a battery without cobalt. The process will certainly be long. Tesla has not yet given a timetable for its marketing.
One thing is certain, once the technology has been mastered and democratized, car manufacturers should be able to see the price of their batteries drop. Tesla, on this subject, is planning a cheaper model than the Model 3 and says that in view of the absence of the high cost of cobalt, his model could end up selling for more than $ 10 to $ 25,000 cheaper.
“It is absolutely essential that we make cars that people can actually afford” Elon Musk declared on September 22 during “Battery Day”. An emergency for the wallet, for the planet, and for the conditions of thousands of men and women.