Battery Prices Likely Heading for the Ceiling After Congo Raises Royalty Rate

The Democratic Republic of Congo has declared cobalt a “strategic” substance, nearly tripling the royalty rate miners will have to pay on it. According to a governmental decree, miners will now pay 10 percent in royalties to extract the element.

While we’ve previously warned of the likelihood of a global supply shortage elevating the price of batteries, it seems this will occur only after the Congo taxes the crap out of it. This is the second time cobalt has seen a royalty hike since June, when the region increased the previous 2 percent royalty to 3.5 percent.

Besides the looming prospect of a reversal in the falling price of EV batteries, a spike in the price of cobalt is already ruffling some feathers.

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The 'Electric Revolution' Can't Happen Without Cobalt, and We're Already Running Out

As we hurl ourselves into the the glistening, unknown future, we are continuously confronted with new obstacles. While we’re good at coming up with solutions to new problems, there are plenty of important questions left hanging in the air as technology pushes us onward. Why do we keep working longer hours as more things become automated? How to we ensure that sentient machines do not decide to kill us? Why are there still so many people that use the speaker function on their phones in public places?

In the automotive realm, autonomous driving and battery technology are the golden geese of progress right now. While driving aids are becoming ever-more impressive, truly self-driving cars are a little further out than most manufacturers would like to admit. Meanwhile, electric automobiles are already here and tangible as hell. You could have one tomorrow if you wanted.

The issues associated with autonomous vehicles are beyond complex. In addition to deciding how to develop the technology effectively, a myriad of questions exist as to the legal ramifications of its implementation and how its very existence could change society. Electric cars are more straightforward, and the problems they face are predominantly logistics oriented. But they’re about to face a monumental hurdle in a few years.

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'Artisanal' Child Labor Business Booming, Thanks to Electric Vehicle Renaissance

Electric cars have been praised as the future savior of mankind for quite some time now, but only in the last few years have mainstream automakers promised to drive headlong into EV production. Governments around the globe encourage the transition. The reality of battery production isn’t so clear-cut, however. Unless you make your daily commute in a Mack truck, odds are good that swapping to a sparkly new four-door with a lithium-ion battery isn’t going to be better for the environment.

Currently, it takes substantially more energy to produce an electric car than a conventional internal-combustion model. EVs sourcing their energy from fossil fuel-burning power plants aren’t much better for the environment than something that runs off pump gas. In addition to that, defunct batteries have to be recycled or they become environmental hazards — and no one has quite figured out the best way to do that yet.

There’s also the issue of sourcing the materials for those batteries. EV cells need scarce precious metals like nickel and cobalt. Those materials take a lot of energy to harvest and have, unfortunately, led to an increase in child labor rates in Africa.

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  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.