Volvo tackles cobalt sourcing problem
Volvo Cars have just implemented the first blockchain traceability system for tracking the cobalt it uses in its electric vehicle batteries.
They started with scrap lithium-ion batteries from discarded mobiles and laptops, from which the raw materials were recovered and then tracked right through the supply chain to their battery manufacturer CATL and then to Volvo Cars.
Recycling has become a global imperative as a way to replenish precious resources and reduce waste. Tons of products are discarded every year and our landfills are now overflowing. Statistics compiled by the University of Central Oklahoma reveal that recycling can dramatically reduce pollution, from landfill dumping to mining waste by up to 70%.
One item that can be effectively recycled is lithium-ion batteries, yet every year it is estimated that 1,8 million used batteries are not responsibly recycled.
Although the rate of recycling has risen considerably from the 5% recycling rate calculated by Friends of the Earth in 2010, there is still a very long way to go. The environmental impact of not recycling batteries is huge as very scarce metals, like cobalt, are wasted.
Volvo Cars was one of the first major premium car brands to commit to a hybrid or full-electric powertrain for all its models. By 2021, Volvo Cars plans to offer five new battery-powered electric vehicles. These cars will be powered by lithium-ion batteries, dependent on cobalt suppliers.
The demand for cobalt necessitates the recycling of batteries, as there is not enough freshly mined cobalt to meet the demand. This makes it essential to responsibly use and recycle existing cobalt supplies.
Battery suppliers for the Volvo Cars electrification initiative are required to provide traceability of the raw materials used in the batteries. Volvo Cars turned to Circulor, a UK company that specializes in using blockchain technology to track and trace raw materials in supply chains.
Circulor has developed a platform that uses blockchain technology from Oracle to create an immutable chain of custody records in the supply chain. It is combined with artificial intelligence algorithms to support due diligence and identify data anomalies to help target compliance and investigative action.
This has been field-tested and used operationally for tantalum mined in Rwanda (tantalum is a conflict mineral used in capacitors in our moniles and laptops) and now for the cobalt used in Volvo Cars’ electric vehicle batteries.
Oracle’s pre-assembled blockchain platform enabled Circulor to focus on their specialty — minerals tracking — without spending time and effort on building new blockchain infrastructure.