Volvo has decided to trace the cobalt that goes into the composition of lithium-ion batteries, according to a statement released on November 6, 2019. The Swedish manufacturer has signed an agreement with its two battery suppliers, CATL and LG Chem, to ensure the traceability of this gray metal via blockchain technology. This announcement comes after the revelation of the Volvo XC40 Recharge, an electric vehicle.
Blockchain data will include cobalt origin, weight and size, chain of custody, and information that participants' behavior is consistent. "to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines on the Supply Chain"So Volvo wants that"customers know that the materials used for the batteries of the vehicle they have in their hands have been sourced responsibly".
An initiative already launched
Amnesty International has long criticized automakers for their lack of involvement in verifying their supply chain. According to figures from the non-governmental organization, more than half of the cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and 20% is mined manually, often by children. Remember that repeated inhalation of this substance can cause lung problems such as asthma or pneumonia.
Volvo is not at all the first company to worry about these topics. In 2018, the pilot project "The Better Cobalt Pilot" was launched. It aims to ensure the production of an "ethical cobalt" from small mines. It must assess the safety of five artisanal mines. The Chinese Huyaou Cobalt, the largest refiner in the world, had participated in this project.
Cobalt will come one day to miss
Beyond the ethical aspect, cobalt poses other problems. This mineral is a non-renewable resource and will therefore one day be missing. In May 2019, Tesla alerted the US government about the upcoming shortage for battery construction. Indeed, digital players are pulling more and more coverage towards them at the expense of the automotive industry because they also need this resource to build laptops and smartphones. Between 2012 and 2017, global demand grew by no less than 30%.