Almost 9,000 miles from the dusty Congo savanna, miners have hit on an entirely new source of cobalt — the rare mineral at the heart of the electric-car boom. And not only can they take coffee breaks, when they take a break, they can grab a donut at Tim Hortons.
Scientists working for American Manganese Inc., located in the suburbs of Vancouver, have developed a way to produce enough of the bluish-gray metal to power all the electric cars on the road today without drilling into the ground: by recycling faulty batteries.
It’s one of many technologies that entrepreneurs are patenting to prepare for a time when electric cars outnumber polluting petrol engines, turning the entire automotive supply chain upside down in the process. Instead of radiators, spark plugs and fuel injectors, the industry will need cheap sources of cobalt, copper and lithium.
“Mining batteries is much more profitable than mining the ground,” said Larry Reaugh, the president of American Manganese, which is patenting a method to draw out all of the metals in rechargeable batteries. “Rather than mining ore that’s 2 percent cobalt, you’re mining a battery that has 100 percent cobalt in it.”
Innovators like him have made so much progress that the likes of Tesla Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp. could count on recycling for 10 percent of their battery material needs through 2025 if companies roll out large schemes, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That will ease pressure on lithium and cobalt, whose prices have more than doubled in the past year.
For the rest of this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-01/the-cobalt-crunch-for-electric-cars-could-be-solved-in-suburbia