By on December 6, 2018

2016 Ford Focus EV Charging Cable in Trunk, Image: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars

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.  (Read More…)

By on November 6, 2018

CCS Charging pic

While electric vehicles get better every year, they remain beholden to battery technology. This results in a few inherent shortcomings – the most noteworthy being limited range and extended downtime while charging. While this has helped throw a wet blanket EV adoption, it isn’t the technology’s only fault. Modern car batteries are also dependent on relatively rare metals that are both morally contentious and prohibitively expensive to procure.

Cobalt, mined almost exclusively in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and often by children, is likely the worst offender. Prices skyrocketed after EV manufacturing went mainstream, and analysts have long predicted a shortage that could severely impact the long-term popularity of zero-emission vehicles. Fortunately, a new way to build batteries may be on the horizon, though this particular application could create as many issues as it solves – since it involves removing an element that’s paramount to a battery’s long-term stability.  (Read More…)

By on May 21, 2018

LG Chem Electric Vehicle Battery Production

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.  (Read More…)

By on February 20, 2018

Child Labor

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.  (Read More…)

By on October 15, 2017

LG Chem Electric Vehicle Battery Production

South Korea’s LG Chem is planning to open the largest lithium-ion battery factory in Europe to aide the continent’s automotive industry as it prepares its much-hyped shift toward EV production. According to LG, construction of the battery plant — located in Wrocław, Poland — is set to begin immediately and batteries should be ready for slotting into vehicles before the end of next year.

In a an announcement, the company said the plant would have a production capacity of 100,000 batteries per year for EVs that can run up to 199 miles once charged. Previous estimates were more conservative but, with German automakers promising widespread electrification, LG saw no reason for half measures.

“We will turn the Poland EV battery plant into a mecca of battery production for electric vehicles around the world,” said company president UB Lee. “As LG Chem’s Poland EV battery plant is the first large-scale automotive lithium battery production plant in Europe, it will play the role of vitalizing the electric vehicle industry across the whole of Europe. We will put all our efforts into making the plant into a main production hub for EV batteries.” (Read More…)

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