Cobalt powering the green economy
The clean energy revolution is replacing fossil fuels like oil and gas with new sources. Aside from the usual forms of renewable energy such as wind turbines, metals and minerals are seen as the new power train. From powering electric cars to being used in solar panels and other forms of renewable energy, they are seen as the means by which mobility and other industries will be decarbonized in the future. One of the most notable metals in this context is cobalt.
The European Union and the United States have classified it as a Critical Raw Material and with its energy storage capacity, hardness, and temperature resilience it is a technology-enabling metal. Cobalt is powering our digital world by being part of circuits, semiconductors, computers and phones.
But how does it play a key role in powering the green economy?
As we move towards the decarbonization of transportation, the demand for energy storage and rechargeable batteries is increasing exponentially, with the aim of achieving zero emissions.
Cobalt is essential to the electrification of mobility, being a key component in both the cathodes – the active materials – of lithium-ion batteries and the electronics needed for smart mobility. In fact, cobalt is the ingredient that gives the range and durability to electric vehicles needed by consumers. It ensures higher energy density and improves the length of time your energy will be available and can be used for, but also how fast the battery can be charged. That means it determines both how long the battery of your phone lasts and how many kilometers you can drive.
Different governments around the world have already drawn up a roadmap to decarbonize the global economy in the fight against climate change, and one of the strategies is to ban the sale of internal combustion engines, such as those used in diesel and petrol cars. This is set to happen in many cases as early as 2030. For example the European Green Deal decouples economic growth from fossil fuels and contains a commitment to have no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. This and many other considerations have encouraged car manufacturers take the decision to transform their entire fleets to electric in the future, including fuel cell technology.
Most of the current electric vehicle models use batteries made with lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide chemistries, better known as NMC. Those are around 20% cobalt. This type of technology is valued for its energy density, its long-life use and its very low self-heating rate. It is also ideal for e-bikes.
Many mobility companies are rushing to produce electric cars that can drive ever longer distances with shorter charges. Our Rechargeable Battery Materials division uses our competencies in chemistry, material science and metallurgy to help different businesses and car manufacturers achieve this, offering very pure battery-grade cobalt and nickel sulphate to produce NCA or NMC for automotive and stationary power fields.
The transition to e-mobility will take some time, as everyone is searching for alternatives that reduce carbon production in the process. These include catalyst root filters that filter our emissions to contribute to cleaner air during the transition from fuel and diesel cars. Again, this is partly made possible by metals– precious metals in fact, like palladium, platinum and rhodium.
Generating energy when the wind blows and storing it when it doesn’t, powering cars and portable devices that bring us closer to a sustainable tomorrow and even closing the loop and bringing it back to the value chain: cobalt is one of the critical raw materials that will play a huge role in powering the green economy in the hope of stopping climate change.