Electric car batteries need cobalt, says Umicore

Marc Grynberg, chief executive officer, Umicore.

By CRM Staff

Toronto, Ontario — February 14 –– Umicore has announced that cobalt will continue to be used in electric vehicle batteries, although it is becoming scarcer and more expensive. This comes in spite of recent moves toward using higher nickel compounds to boost energy density and cut costs.

Marc Grynberg, chief executive officer, Umicore made comments recently stating cobalts necessity in electric car battery production, although new technology is moving toward higher nickel proportions. “If you increase the nickel proportion, you reduce the stability of the battery and so it has an impact on cycle life, the ability to charge it fast,” he said. “Cobalt is the element that makes up for the lack of stability of nickel. There isn’t a better element than nickel to increase energy density, and there isn’t a better element than cobalt to make the stuff stable. So (while) you hear about designing out cobalt, this is not going to happen in the next three decades. It simply doesn’t work.”

Umicore, a supplier out of Belgium for materials for electric vehicle batteries, cobalt included, said it had raised $1.1 billion to help fund investments in the fast-changing rechargeable battery industry.

Cobalt prices have increased three times over in the last two years among projections of high growth in demand for electric cars leading to increased use of the metals found in their batteries. For now, cobalt production rates are meeting the current demands from the electric vehicle industry, Grynberg said.

Long term projections include the need for recycled cobalt supplies. Umicore anticipates the need for increased recycling of electric vehicle batteries over the next decade. “In 10 years’ time it will still be relatively modest, but in 20 years’ time [recycled product] will be a significant proportion of our [usage],” Grynberg said. “If you look at a more mature market, like the market for catalysts that contain platinum group metals, about half of our supply is coming from recycling.”

For more information go to umicore.com.


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