Electric cars are getting cheaper and their sales are on the rise, but their future success may depend on ditching a key ingredient: the heavy metal cobalt.
The mineral is used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars, and demand is steadily rising. A new analysis by Elsa Olivetti at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her colleagues has found there may be cobalt shortages if we don’t start refining and recycling it more efficiently or in greater quantities.
They estimate that global demand for cobalt will rise to between 235,000 and 430,000 tonnes by 2030 – an amount that is at least 1.6 times the world’s current capacity to refine the metal, as of 2016 figures.
Lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars and other consumer electronics account for about half of all cobalt demand, and the demand for these batteries is projected to more than quadruple over the next decade.
Cobalt is often produced as a by-product of copper or nickel mining. As such, it is affected by fluctuations in…