The Japanese company plans to change up their battery manufacturing recipe within the next two-to-three years to use only half the current cobalt components. Head of the Panasonic passenger car division, Yoshio Ito, stated there are already working prototypes, but a complex evaluation process will take place before serial production.
The effort to reduce cobalt use in batteries comes from the fact that the material price has heavily increased recently due to demand for batteries across multiple industries. Access to the material is also not easy, as much is mined in less than humane conditions. Two thirds of the current global cobalt production are located in the Congo. Due to the expected bottle-neck in supply lines, many battery manufacturers and OEMs are already looking for alternatives.
For these reasons, Panasonic hopes to eventually entirely eliminate the need for cobalt in their batteries. This was announced by Panasonic manager Kenji Tamura, who is responsible for the battery manufacturing, in a meeting with analysts. A time frame for the endeavour has not been issued by the company, however. The new 2170 battery cells have a cobalt percentage of only 2.8% in the cathodes.
Regarding Tesla’s battery sourcing: The Californians may soon profit from a lithium carbonate mine near to their base. A study by the company Lithium America showed that about 150 miles north of the Nevada Gigafactory a considerable amount of the resource can be found.