Leading EV battery maker Samsung has announced plans to revise its cobalt strategy. Not only will the Koreans reduce the amount of the rare resource by using nickel instead but Samsung is also working on cells that do not require any cobalt. Recycling is another measure.
The race for cobalt is on since mayor carmakers are forced to electrify their fleets. Samsung is at the top end of the supply chain and feels surges in price with immediate effect. In order to free itself from constraints outside its direct control, the Koreans have revised their strategy.
Samsung issued a statement to announce their decision for a cobalt-less strategy, an R&D effort that includes to replace cobalt with nickel in order to halve the use of cobalt in batteries from around 20 percent. The company says it has developed the technology to reduce cobalt in batteries further down to 5 percent, again by expanding the use of nickel by more than 90 percent. In addition, the researchers are aiming to get rid of cobalt entirely in the future.
Meanwhile though, Samsung is looking for other sources. In an email to Bloomberg, the company said it would buy stakes in a company with recycling technology and sign a deal to ensure long-term cobalt supplies from the Congo. The DRC is the world’s biggest cobalt producer, covering two-thirds of global supply and could start to double prices soon (we reported).
Toyota and Panasonic have embarked on a similar R&D effort as Samsung by joining forces to further develop batteries (we reported) but they have not said whether they’d be working towards cobalt-free batteries.
The trio of Renault, Nissan und Mitsubishi does though through buying into innovative startups such as Ionic Materials. The company is working on solid-state and cobalt-free battery materials, more concretely a solid polymer electrolyte.
However, as long as those research efforts have not resulted in commercially viable products, carmakers will have to deal with shortages such as leading European manufacturers and procurement managers have warned of last week.