Threat of Cobalt Supply Shock Is Top Risk for Electric Vehicles – by David Stringer and Martin Ritchie (Bloomberg News – May 21, 2018)

A burgeoning risk of a supply crunch in cobalt — a key battery metal that’s more than tripled in price in two years — poses one of the biggest threats to forecasts for rising electric vehicle adoption.

Major investment in mines is required to avoid price spikes that could see cost reductions for lithium-ion batteries stall, Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysts said Monday in a report.

Shortages of cobalt are likely earlier than previously forecast and the issue poses a potential challenge to EV sales over the coming five to seven years, according to the report.

“The long lead time to bring on new mines and the concentration of cobalt reserves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo mean there is a real possibility of supply shocks in the early 2020s,” the BNEF analysts said. The DRC accounts for more than two-thirds of mined output, according to trading firm Darton Commodities Ltd.

Projections of sharply rising demand for cobalt have spurred efforts to develop new mines, stockpiling by speculators and work to reduce the amount used in rechargeable batteries. Automakers who plan to rapidly expand EV fleets are already aware of dangers of supply scarcity, according to BMW AG.

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