Munich-based start-up Sono Motors is the first electric vehicle manufacturer to become a member of the Fair Cobalt Alliance. The action platform is an initiative to promote fairer cobalt mining practices in small-scale mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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The Fair Cobalt Alliance was launched by smartphone manufacturer Fairphone, Signify and Huayou in collaboration with the Impact Facility. Sono Motors sees great potential in the Fair Cobalt Alliance to make cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo fairer and more transparent. “There is currently no fair certified cobalt on the market and we want to help change that,” the company writes. “After all, we plan to build 260,000 Sions by 2027. That is a considerable amount of cobalt that has to be extracted from the earth, processed and transported. We want this to be done under fair conditions, even though we know that change does not happen overnight.”
Awareness of the problem of cobalt mining is growing among manufacturers worldwide. While some, like BMW, are moving to mine areas outside the Congo as well as initiating the organisation PartChain that uses blockchain technology to increase transparency in worldwide supply chains others. Volvo is also investing in blockchain technology to ensure the tamper-proof traceability of materials. In general, much of the industry is striving to reduce the amount of cobalt in batteries to reduce their dependence on this costly and critical element. Only recently, for example, Panasonic announced that it will be launching a cobalt-free version of the 2170 battery cells for Tesla “in two to three years”.
So Sono Motors has now decided to contribute and join the Fair Cobalt Alliance. The Munich-based company is known to have gone through a nerve-wracking phase: after negotiations with a financial investor in 2019 failed, founders and CEOs Laurin Hahn and Jona Christians launched a crowdfunding campaign in December 2019 to raise €50 million to continue operations. After an extension until mid-January 2020, this amount was also achieved.
Update 09 September 2020: The Fair Cobalt Alliance gained another electric car manufacturer as a supporter – a very prominent one at that: Tesla.
Tesla’s entry is no coincidence, of course. The Californian electric car manufacturer reached an agreement with the mining group Glencore in the summer. According to the agreement, Glencore will supply Tesla with up to 6,000 tons of cobalt per year from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mining company, which is itself not undisputed, is already a member of the Fair Cobalt Alliance. The fact that Tesla is now also directly involved in the initiative as a customer makes perfect sense.
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