Advertisement

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

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. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

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...

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

New Volvo coupe-SUV set to lead next-generation of brand’s EVs
Volvo

New Volvo coupe-SUV set to lead next-generation of brand’s EVs

Volvo planning a new range of sleeker coupe-SUVs in EV rethink, and our exclusive image previews how they could look
23 Jul 2020
Volvo On Call app: update adds data on energy use for plug-in hybrid owners
Volvo smart watch
Volvo

Volvo On Call app: update adds data on energy use for plug-in hybrid owners

Owners of Volvo plug-in hybrids will be able to see what proportion of their journeys are made using electric power through the On Call app
9 Jul 2020
Volvo recalls 2.2 million cars for seatbelt fault
Volvo

Volvo recalls 2.2 million cars for seatbelt fault

The huge safety recall applies to numerous Volvos made from 2006 to 2018, with 169,481 UK cars affected 
1 Jul 2020
Post-coronavirus subsidies for non-electric cars would be a waste, says Volvo boss
News

Post-coronavirus subsidies for non-electric cars would be a waste, says Volvo boss

Hakan Samuelsson believes it’s naive to expect everything to return to normal after the coronavirus, and the future is electric.
13 May 2020

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2020
Best cars & vans

Best new car deals 2020

Secure your dream model from our list of the best new car deals on the market right now
6 Aug 2020
New 2022 Ineos Grenadier: prices, specs and launch date
Ineos Grenadier

New 2022 Ineos Grenadier: prices, specs and launch date

Ineos Automotive’s spiritual successor to the old Land Rover Defender will go on sale soon, with a starting price of around £50,000
6 Aug 2020
Over a quarter of drivers are late for their MoT
MOT testing station
Consumer news

Over a quarter of drivers are late for their MoT

Motorists who drive a car without a valid MoT certificate risk a fine of up to £1,000
7 Aug 2020