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Cobalt for EV cars is going for $38,520 a Ton it makes up 40 % of a EV's cost


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EV Surge Sends Cobalt Prices Soaring; China controls big chunk of market for key metal in car batteries that is mined largely in Africa
Friday, January 22, 2021, 11:38 AM ET
By Yang Jie
A 20% rise in the price of cobalt since the beginning of this year shows how the rush to build more electric vehicles is stressing global supply chains.

Already a shortage of semiconductors is slowing the recovery in auto production. Now cobalt, a blue metal that is needed for many types of batteries including those in EVs, is a concern, according to people in the auto and battery industries and analysts.

"The demand is not going to shrink any time soon, while the supply remains tight mainly due to logistics disruptions in South Africa during the pandemic," said Ying Lu, an analyst at London-based commodity research firm Roskill.

Energy-dense cobalt is used as the stabilizer in batteries. It helps protect the battery's cathode from corrosion that can lead to a fire.

A majority of the world's cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa. It typically is carried overland to South Africa, shipped out from the port of Durban, South Africa, and processed in China before the material goes to battery makers—meaning the supply chain has several choke points that make it vulnerable to disruption.

In 2017 and 2018, during an earlier rush of interest in EVs, the price of cobalt quadrupled in the space of two years before a boost in production calmed the market down. Recent moves aren't as extreme, but the spot price of cobalt rose to $38,520 a ton as of Jan. 21, according to Futuresource, up 20% since the end of December.

The election of President Biden as well as recent climate-change initiatives by China and Japan have accelerated a shift to electric vehicles. Tesla Inc . has said it aims to build 20 million vehicles annually a decade from now, a 40-fold increase from last year.

More EVs mean more batteries. They account for about 40% of an EV's cost, according to a report published by China-based Guotai Junan Securities Co . last year. Analysts say cobalt is the most expensive material in the batteries.

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Interesting that what I am reading indicates that cobalt is being phased out of EV batteries. For example, if what I read is true, the new Tesla vehicles being built in China are using iron phosphate electrodes. Last I checked neither iron nor phosphate is in very short supply.

 

EV battery prices have dropped nearly 90% in the last 10 years. While the trend is flattening, it is still going down and will shortly be at or under a price that will make a EV cheaper than an internal combustion engine vehicle soon. Probably in the next 2 to 5 years. And that is cost competitive without government incentives.

 

Oh, and that is cost competitive on purchase price. There are a fair number of studies that show that at current prices an EV has a lower lifetime cost already.

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First Cobalt Corp is a North American venture with stakes in Idaho and Cobalt, Ontario that may become a more local, as it were, producer.  For the history buffs in the crowd, Cobalt, Ont was the sight of a massive silver rush in the early 1900's that produced more in dollar value, than the more famous gold rushes.  Interesting little town in northern Ontario.

 

Don 

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Yes, Tesla has started using Li iron phosphate batteries in the short range cars made in China.  (CATL is supplying them.)  For the long range packs, they've been reducing cobalt content for years.  Increasing the percentage of nickel is part of the move.

 

Thing is that eventually as cars get old, the metals will be recovered and recycled.  It is more complicated than recycling a lead acid battery.  But given the value of the metals, it will happen.

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One of the exciting things about electric vehicles is that they're likely still early in the technological progress curve.    We've been working at improving gas-powered vehicles for over 100 years, and while improvements are still made, they tend to be fairly small by now.   It will be fascinating to see how EV battery technology changes year by year in the future.  

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9 hours ago, 1935Packard said:

One of the exciting things about electric vehicles is that they're likely still early in the technological progress curve.    We've been working at improving gas-powered vehicles for over 100 years, and while improvements are still made, they tend to be fairly small by now.   It will be fascinating to see how EV battery technology changes year by year in the future.  

 

It is sort of a Second Coming.  Historically, back in the 1800s, EVs preceded gas cars.  But as we all know, due to early battery limitations gas cars quickly took over.

 

Today, we can thank the GM EV1 (and Sunraycer and Impact) which demonstrated the use of modern DC->AC inverters to efficiently drive the motors.  The founders of Tesla (Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning) came from the handheld device industry.  So they knew all about Li-ion batteries.  Much much better than lead-acid, and much better than NiMH that the EV1 also played with.  They married the electronics and battery tech, got Lotus involved to help design a car, and the Tesla Roadster was born.  Easier said than done.  But look at where Tesla is today!

 

I attended a talk a few years ago that Marc Tarpenning gave on the founding of Tesla.  He and Martin were just astonished that GM gave up on the EV1 and buried it so completely.  It appealed to a high end demographic that GM had never, in modern times, been able to appeal to.  But it did give them the opening to found Tesla.  For those who are interested, here is a link to the talk:

 

 

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Technology will improve electric cars, they’ve already come a long way.

 

What needs to come along with it is more electric power generation and upgrades to the two electrical grids in our country.

 

Imagine, everyone gets home at 5:30, plugs in their car, turns the air conditioner to high and starts the stove for supper.  There are many places that struggle to handle the current load (pun intended), much less adding the cars to it....

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54 minutes ago, trimacar said:

Technology will improve electric cars, they’ve already come a long way.

 

What needs to come along with it is more electric power generation and upgrades to the two electrical grids in our country.

 

Imagine, everyone gets home at 5:30, plugs in their car, turns the air conditioner to high and starts the stove for supper.  There are many places that struggle to handle the current load (pun intended), much less adding the cars to it....

 

With Time-of-Use (TOU) pricing, a utility company can offer low overnight prices - when the load on the grid is much less than in the evening.  My TOU rates are cheapest between midnight and 3 PM.  Almost all modern EVs have built-in timers for charging.  So I simply set ours to start charging at midnight.  Wake up the next morning to a "full tank".

 

I've had TOU rates since we bought our house back in the early 1990s.  The previous owner had an electric kiln in the garage and had the special TOU meter installed so he could get lower rates for his pottery work.  At the time, the peak rates were from noon to 6 PM - corresponding to air conditioning use around the grid.  But these days with so much solar generation - on both sides of the meter - the rates have changed quite a bit.  My peak rate is now 4 PM to 9 PM, with a mid-peak rate from 3-4 PM and 9 PM to midnight.

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3 hours ago, wws944 said:

. . . I attended a talk a few years ago that Marc Tarpenning gave on the founding of Tesla.  He and Martin were just astonished that GM gave up on the EV1 and buried it so completely.  It appealed to a high end demographic that GM had never, in modern times, been able to appeal to.  But it did give them the opening to found Tesla.  For those who are interested, here is a link to the talk:

 

A very interesting presentation. Thank you for the link!

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