These days, it seems like the buzzword in technology news is electric car. And it’s no wonder why – electric cars are cleaner, cheaper to maintain, and better for the environment overall than their gasoline-powered cousins. But one thing that often goes unmentioned when discussing electric cars is the batteries that power them. You see, cell phone batteries and batteries for electric cars contain cobalt – and without that valuable cobalt, these high-tech power sources wouldn’t exist!
What is Cobalt?
Cobalt is an important industrial metal used in blue pigments and the manufacture of steel alloys. It is one of the most expensive metals on Earth, with reserves located primarily in Congo. Demand for cobalt has increased as new technologies have introduced the element into more commercial applications. For example, electric vehicle batteries and consumer electronics demand for cobalt is rising. There are two major problems to this demand: because cobalt is generally found in Africa and other remote areas, it means that sourcing comes with great difficulty and expense; there are also concerns over whether enough will be left after continued extraction over the coming decades to meet future needs when supply inevitably declines.
Sources of Cobalt
-95% of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. -Chinese manufacturers import around 150,000 tons of it every year. -Cobalt demand has jumped 60% in the last five years. -This high demand may threaten supplies and sends prices on upward trajectory to near $90,000 per ton. -Industry analysts believe that electric vehicle technology will drive demand for cobalt to unprecedented levels by 2020.
Uses of Cobalt
Cobalt is mainly used in car batteries, and cell phone batteries. It also has many other important uses, like UV-curing technology, magnets and electronics.
The company’s CEO on Bloomberg TV said that their cobalt will go to more than 1.6 million electric cars by 2020. Demand for this element is going up as more people want to buy electric cars, which means the price of the metal is expected to rise too.
Cobalt prices have already risen close to 60% in 2018 and can be projected to continue rising thanks to tightening supplies, electricity vehicles’ demands and digital technologies’ demands from users.
Where do We Get Our Cobalt From?
We currently get most of our cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country is home to half the world’s known cobalt reserves, and it happens to be home to numerous other natural resources as well. DRC has been regarded as one of the wealthiest African countries for years, with mining accounting for more than half its exports. However, there have been consequences for DRC due to this boom in mining. Much of this has occurred recently due to heavy demand for cobalt (specifically in batteries), including from electric cars which contain a substantial amount of this metal…
The Impact of Cobalt on the Environment
Cobalt is becoming an important mineral to fuel the growth of renewable energy and electric vehicles. In some instances, its demand has spiked in the last five years. However, mining for cobalt often has a devastating effect on the environment. This is because most of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from Congo, where unregulated mining activities pollute rivers and contaminate farms with toxic chemicals that eventually seep into water supplies. Furthermore, many women are forced to work in unsafe conditions at African mines in order to produce enough cobalt for electric car batteries.
A Silver Lining To The Solar Energy Revolution?
The Silver Lining To The Solar Energy Revolution? The world is on the verge of an energy revolution that will change the way we power our lives. Yet even as solar power gets cheaper and easier to use, there’s a downside: the mining of raw materials needed for solar panels and electric car batteries has led to environmental damage in some cases, and to human rights abuses in others. Continued demand for cobalt, used in electric car batteries, could trigger more mines in Congo, where child labor is rampant.