Cobalt is the most expensive metal used to make lithium-ion batteries. Companies like Samsung, Panasonic and Tesla are working to replace cobalt-made lithium-ion batteries with lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) ones according to a new report. Also Read - BMW iX all-electric SUV to launch in India on December 11: Could cost north of Rs 1 crore
Lithium-ion batteries are one of the most important elements of most electricity-powered devices including laptops, mobile phones, electric vehicles and more. Lithium-ion batteries consist of various elements including Lithium, cobalt, iron, manganese, nickel and aluminium. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy A03 with 48MP camera, 5,000mAh battery announced
According to a report by CNBC, the average cost of cobalt has risen to more than the combined cost of all the other battery metals in the past four years. The report further states that a typical lithium-ion battery pack can contain nearly 14kg of cobalt, this is to increase the life of batteries and energy density. Also Read - Samsung permanently discontinues the Galaxy Note series … for good
Due to cobalt being a byproduct of nickel and copper mining, its prices depend on the demand and price fluctuations of nickel and copper. This is why the prices of cobalt are extremely volatile. “For mass electrification to happen, there are lots of sentiments that cobalt needs to be eliminated or reduced to the bare minimum,” Chibueze Amanchukwu, professor at the University of Chicago, told CNBC.
Apart from the volatile prices, cobalt extraction is also linked to child labour and human rights abuses. This is because the majority of the world’s battery-grade cobalt reserves are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the mining of cobalt is associated with human rights abuses and child labour.
Also, 70 percent of Congo’s mining sector and 80 percent of the cobalt refining industry is currently controlled by Chinese investors, who have restricted cobalt supply due to the ongoing trade war between US and China.
Due to all of these reasons, most of the battery manufacturers and other companies are looking to shift towards a cheaper and viable option, which could be LFP batteries. However, use of LFP batteries do have some tradeoffs, with the main downside being low energy density and therefore less usage time.