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Volvo implements blockchain to trace ethical sources for cobalt in EV batteries

Volvo Cars announced today that it would become the first carmaker to implement global traceability of cobalt by applying blockchain technology. The Swedish carmaker said that it reached an agreement with its two global battery suppliers, CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea, to trace cobalt supplies starting this year.

The move coincides with the company recently revealing the XC40 Recharge, its first EV. And Polestar, Volvo’s electric brand, will begin selling an all-electric car and a plug-in hybrid supercar early next year.

The agreement between Volvo Cars, CATL, and LG Chem will cover the supply of batteries for the next decade for both Volvo and Polestar models.

Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo Cars, said:

We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials. With blockchain technology, we can take the next step toward ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimizing any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.

From Volvo’s press release:

Technology firms Circulor and Oracle operate the blockchain technology across CATL’s supply chain following a successful pilot earlier this summer, while the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN), together with responsible sourcing specialists RCS Global and IBM, is rolling out the technology in LG Chem’s supply chain.

In March 2019, Amnesty International raised concerns about the ethics of EV batteries, especially those containing cobalt mined with child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than 60% of the world’s cobalt comes from the DRC.

Tesla took the lead in committing to the ethical sourcing of battery materials, reducing its use of cobalt by as much as 60% in the past few years. Less than 3% of Model 3 batteries are comprised of cobalt, according to a tweet from Elon Musk in May 2018.

Electrek’s Take

Kudos to Volvo for taking ethical sourcing of cobalt to the next stage by introducing traceability through blockchain technology. 

We’ve been tracking stories about child labor and cobalt for the past few years. It’s an issue for all EV producers. All of them should commit to ethical sourcing. And with Volvo now using blockchain to ensure ethical supplies of cobalt, the rest of the industry should follow suit.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.