Volvo uses blockchain tech over cobalt ethics supply concerns

Most cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, some by child miners; Volvo’s move aims to address ethics concerns

Volvo XC40 Recharge - front 3/4 static

Volvo is to use blockchain technology to help it trace the provenance of the cobalt used in its electric cars, like the XC40 Recharge.

Cobalt is a vital component for the batteries in electric cars, as well as smartphones and laptops. But with around 60 per cent of the world’s cobalt coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of the poorest countries in the world, concerns over unregulated mines and child miners have led Volvo to introduce the provenance-tracking technology.

Best electric cars on sale

Blockchain works by creating a digital ‘ledger’, or database, that can be shared electronically between computers and companies, without being changed. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, rely on blockchain technology to track payments and keep the currency secure. Blockchain is already used by some diamond companies to ensure blood diamonds, mined in war zones to fund soldiers and mercenaries, do not make their way on to the market. 

Auto Express highlighted concerns over cobalt supply chains at the end of 2018, when we asked all the major players in the EV market where their cobalt came from. No manufacturer was able to guarantee its EV batteries were free from DRC cobalt, though BMW said it planned to stop using Congolese cobalt in the future. Even this solution is not without problems, however, as mines providing vital employment for some DRC residents.

In the case of Volvo’s cobalt, blockchain will be used to log the origin, weight and size of the metal, as well as its “chain of custody” - i.e. in which companies’ hands the material is in, or has passed through. 

With much of the world’s cobalt processed in refineries en mass, even manufacturers who insist on using legitimate mines can find it difficult to guarantee the material has been ethically sourced. By deploying blockchain to cobalt supply chains, however, Volvo will be able to ensure the materials used in its batteries were not dug out of the ground by children in dangerous, unregulated mines.

The Chinese-owned Swedish firm will work with its battery suppliers - CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea - as well as tech firms Circulor and Oracle - to deploy the blockchain system. 

Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo, said the firm has “always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials”, adding: “With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.”

What do you think of Volvo's EV battery plan? Let us know in the comments below...

Recommended

Future classics 2022: car investments that could make you money
Future classics - header image
Best cars & vans

Future classics 2022: car investments that could make you money

Identifying future classic cars is a tricky but potentially lucrative business, here are our future classic recommendations
23 May 2022
Volvo invests in electric car battery developer StoreDot
Northvolt
Volvo

Volvo invests in electric car battery developer StoreDot

StoreDot collaboration could see longer range, quicker charging and lower costs for Volvo and Polestar EVs
19 Apr 2022
Volvo rolls out over-the-air software updates across whole range
Volvo C40 infotainment
Volvo

Volvo rolls out over-the-air software updates across whole range

Volvo has expanded its over-the-air update programme, which now covers nearly 200,000 cars and 34 countries
7 Apr 2022
Volvo sales will be 10 per cent electric cars in 2022
Volvo C40 Recharge - front
Volvo

Volvo sales will be 10 per cent electric cars in 2022

Volvo is pushing hard to boost the proportion of fully electric cars it sells, with a target that one in 10 vehicles it shifts this year will be batte…
11 Feb 2022

Most Popular

EU demands speed limiters on all new cars from next week: know the rules and how they work
speed limiters
News

EU demands speed limiters on all new cars from next week: know the rules and how they work

Car industry body calls for UK government to adopt the new measures, but we’ll probably get them anyway…
29 Jun 2022
New MG 4 electric hatch arrives with 280 miles of range
New MG 4 2023
News

New MG 4 electric hatch arrives with 280 miles of range

The all-electric MG 4 hatchback rivals the Volkswagen ID.3 and introduces MG’s new MSP electric platform
28 Jun 2022
New 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 6 enters as sleek all-electric saloon
Hyundai Ioniq 6 - front
News

New 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 6 enters as sleek all-electric saloon

The Hyundai Ioniq 6 is the follow-up to the game-changing Ioniq 5 and packages the same EV technology into a streamlined shape
28 Jun 2022