EACH new electric vehicle (EV) uses about 10kg (22 lbs) of cobalt. More than half of the world’s reserves and production of the metal are in one dangerously unstable country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Moreover, four-fifths of the cobalt sulphates and oxides used to make the cathodes for lithium-ion batteries are refined in China. China has already proven willing to restrict exports of rare-earth metals to foreign firms. And although China is not thought to be cornering or manipulating the market for cobalt, growing global demand has still sent the the element’s price soaring.
Non-Chinese battery manufacturers have already begun looking for ways to protect themselves from potential shortages. Their best answer to date is another metal closely associated with cobalt: nickel. Some firms are now producing cobalt-lite cathodes, by raising the nickel content to as much as eight times the amount of cobalt. This allows the battery to run longer on a single charge—but also increases the risk it will burst into flames. So far, the price of nickel has remained flat. But according to McKinsey, a consultancy, by 2025 EV-related demand for nickel is expected to rise 16-fold.
Source: The Economist