Panasonic Hopes To Go Cobalt-Free With Batteries In Near Future

MAY 31 2018 BY MARK KANE 42

Soaring prices of cobalt, one of the key battery ingredients, prompts Panasonic to develop cobalt-free lithium-ion cells.

The Japanese manufacturer, together with Tesla, already produces cells that are very energy dense with cobalt-usage below 10% of cathode weight (below the NMC 811 type cells introduced by competitors).

Read Also – Battery Makers 2017: Panasonic & BYD Hold Majority Of Market

Regardless of exact cobalt share in the battery, it’s still too high and the ultimate goal is to keep the performance of the batteries and to get rid of most expensive materials at the same time.

Kenji Tamura, who is in charge of Panasonic’s automotive battery business, said:

Tesla Gigafactory

“We have already cut down cobalt usage substantially,”

“We are aiming to achieve zero usage in the near future, and development is underway.”

For us it’s obvious that the range offered by Tesla cars is high enough for the majority of drivers, while affordability still needs to be improved for the mass market.

Interesting is that manufacturers are trying to deal with cobalt prices with unconventional contracts:

“In addition to the effort to reduce rare mineral content in its batteries, Panasonic is also trying to sign contracts with clients “in a way that allows the company to hedge risks of surging prices of the materials,” said Yoshio Ito, the chief of Panasonic’s automotive business.”

Mid-term Growth Scenario: Energy Business (Automotive Batteries)

Source: Automotive News

Categories: Battery Tech, Tesla

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42 Comments on "Panasonic Hopes To Go Cobalt-Free With Batteries In Near Future"

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theBrandler

Forget cost, given the unfortunate aspect of the majority of cobalt being mined by “organizations” that utilize child slave labor as a part of their “business model” I’m all for eliminating cobalt use. As I also understand it, cobalt is quite toxic, so eliminating it from batteries is an economic win, human rights win, and environmental win.

arne-nl

toxic, toxic, it has been used for ages in all kinds magnet without anyone complaining about toxicity.

theBrandler

Same could be said for many toxins. That doesn’t make it unproblematic, it just means we were to complacent to fix it until it mattered. Also most magnets don’t crash and burn on the highway thousands of times a year. That is what’s going to happen to the batteries in electric cars as their percentage on the road rises. More and more getting into accidents that result in battery fires, which will then have emergency personal and survivors exposed to toxic compounds from those burning batteries. The less toxic the better.

People actually need cobalt in tiny amounts. It is possible to have cobalt poisoning, though. Usually it happens from tungsten carbide production.

doggydogworld

“the majority of cobalt being mined by “organizations” that utilize child slave labor ”

This is not true. The majority of cobalt is mined in the Congo, where some small operators use child labor. The large operators, who mine the vast majority of the cobalt, do not.

It’s a serious issue, but it’s nowhere near “the majority of cobalt”.

Windbourne

Nearly all of the Chinese mines in the Congo are using Child labor.
Yes, china has ran around buying these mines, large and small.

Riggald

Then make sure not to buy Chinese EVs

In addition, here is Tesla’s statement on cobalt sourcing from a recent filing. Cobalt Tesla does not and will not accept human rights abuses in our supply chain. While Tesla’s responsible sourcing practices apply to all materials and supply chain partners, we recognize the conditions associated with select artisanal mining (ASM) of cobalt in the DRC. To assure the cobalt in Tesla’s supply chain does not come from ASM sites, we have implemented targeted due diligence procedures for cobalt sourcing. We have visited many cobalt mines and processing plants that support Tesla’s main supply chain, as well as potential future suppliers throughout the world. We discuss with these suppliers the major risks they face and the practices they have implemented to mitigate these risks, including chain of custody controls and iterative checks performed from mining until customer delivery to combat illegal or artisanal ore use; on-site security and access control; hiring practices and management engagement to protect against child labor onsite; internal and third party audit practices; and engagement with local communities to maintain a positive social license to operate. To date, we have not uncovered human rights abuses in our supply chains. It is important to note that there… Read more »
Pushmi-Pullyu

EV bashers and anti-Tesla FUDsters would like us to believe that all EV batteries are the product of forced child labor.

The truth is that Panasonic uses no cobalt from those sources; all of the cobalt in its batteries comes from more reputable sources.

Quoting from “Several automakers and battery makers accused of using cobalt sourced by child labor in Congo”:

“Even [though] Tesla Motors’ battery cells are made using cobalt for the cathode, the company is not named in the report because its main battery cell supplier, Panasonic, sources its cobalt from the Philippines and not Congo.”

https://electrek.co/2016/01/19/automakers-battery-makers-cobalt-child-labor/

Windbourne

The west really needs to stop the use of cobalt in our batteries.

Windbourne

Cobalt is an essential element. Heck, You get them in your vitamins. As such, like other elements, the ONLY toxicity is when it is in too much or too little.

However, the real issue is that China is running around buying up Cobalt mines all over Africa and is making HEAVY use of child miners. Disgusting.

I wish that Canada would get their cobalt mine going quickly. We have plenty of uses for Cobalt that can justify mining it in the west. Right now, the majority is for li-ion batteries, but it would be nice to see western gov put a limit on the cobalt % and drop it yearly.

Lamata

I wonder what they use as a Substitute…?

CDAVIS

Likely iron… the most common element on earth by mass and a fraction of the cost of cobalt.

philip d

And more nickel and aluminum.

CDAVIS

Specifically lithium iron phosphate on carbon nanotube-coated aluminium foil… providing high energy density & virtually incombustible. Clemson U…

CDAVIS

… carbon nanotube sintering the foil is the game changer here because it provides higher energy density which low energy density has traditionally been the negative of using the more stable lithium iron phosphate.

Ambulator

Mostly nickel.

Doggydogworld

More nickel, which is already the dominant cathode metal. Maybe a little more aluminum. They may also be adding magnesium into the mix — NCAM is starting to gain traction. Maybe they see that as a stepping stone to NAM.

Ambulator

The M in NCAM means manganese, not magnesium.

Doggydogworld

Yes, good catch. Mn, not Mg.

Windbourne

nothing. Cobalt is a stabilizer for the cat/anodes. It keeps whiskers from forming. Instead, they are learning how to do without it. Basically, special manufacturing techniques that solve this.

No doubt Chinese spies are all over Tesla and Panasonic.

Dave

That all sounds awesome, more lithium is more energy density, but Cobalt has always been the safety agent, so I hope they are not risking safety for cost/energy density.

Mike McD

Actually, cobalt is an “agent” that increases the cathodic voltage, increasing energy density. Not for safety or stabilization at all, since LiCoO2 batteries (like that in your mobile phone) degrade more steadily than others even at low power.

Windbourne
are you sure? My understanding was that Cobalt prevented whiskers from forming. IOW, it was for stabilization. And Anode/Cathodes are not containers of energy. They are used for electron conduction as well as chemical catalysts. ————————- edit ————————————- Nope. I’m wrong. It is actually part of the chemistry. https://www.designnews.com/electronics-test/understanding-role-cobalt-batteries/63068579258429 So what role does the cobalt play? “When the lithium ion is taken out of the oxide (in the cathode), the lithium ion has a positive charge, so the cobalt changes its oxidation state, so that the oxide stays electrically neutral. A small amount of the cobalt changes it electronic character from oxidation state +3 to +4 to account for the removal of the lithium ion,” said Abraham. The role of the transition metal element in the cathode is to compensate for the charge when the lithium ion arrives or departs. Compounds chosen for cathodes are commonly oxides made from transition metals such as nickel, cobalt, copper, iron, chromium, zinc, or manganese which have the ability to change valence to maintain neutrality. ... Why not remove all the cobalt? Abraham explained: “From our experience, at least small amounts of cobalt are needed in the material because it appears to help the… Read more »
Ambulator

So, Tesla is touting the reduced use of cobalt in their batteries, and so is Panasonic. I wonder if they are both trying to take credit for the same advance?

menorman

It’s as if they produce them at a joint facility or something, right?

doggydogworld

Yeah, those attention whores at Panasonic are trying to steal credit for Tesla’s deep battery chemistry R&D, lol.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Yeah, it’s almost like they had a partnership or something.

Dreadful; don’t they know that everything these days is supposed to be a zero-sum game? How dare they actually practice cooperation!
🙄

Windbourne

They are partners, not user/supplier.
With that said, it is tesla that has hired the top gun and is focused on getting different chemistry.

SparkEV

Battery for 2014 SparkEV uses no Cobalt since it uses LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate), yet it still allowed 50 kW charging to 80% using 20kWh battery (2.5C) whereas Tesla using Panasonic taper to under 0.5C at 80% (S85). If they really wanted to eliminate Cobalt for EV application, they can go back to SparkEV technology from 2013.

doggydogworld

China was almost exclusively LFP, but is abandoning it because it can’t provide long range in a reasonably sized car.

Mike McD

Gigantic energy density loss with LFP. Not good for most automotive applications, except for maybe transit buses that can be charged frequently throughout its route.

SparkEV

Some would argue any battery is not good for automotive application. Simple fact is, LFP has been successfully used in kickass EV, 2014 SparkEV.

PHEVfan

The energy density of LFP is ~40% less than that of NMC and less than half that of NCA. LFP batteries have to be much heavier to have the same range. Granted they are much safer from fire, but there is a cost.

SparkEV

2015+ SparkEV has NMC cells and 18.4 kWh weighs ~475 lb, or pack density of 26 lb/kWh. 2014 SparkEV has LFP and 20.1 kWh weighs ~550 lb, or pack density of 27 lb/kWh. Sure, neither are tuned for best energy density, but it is not 40% less when you consider power density (charge + discharge) as well where SparkEV charging is 2.4C+ and discharging at 5.25C+.

By comparison, Bolt is 60 kWh at ~900 lb, or pack density of 15 lb/kWh. But Bolt barely charges at 1C and discharges only at 2.5C (150 kW motor), less than half of SparkEV.

Harald Olav

It sounds great, but they have to get the density up going forward. Obviously is a problem, or they would be using this chemistry.

SparkEV

My point being that if they really wanted to remove Cobalt, they can already do it using 2014 SparkEV tech. Obviously, it will be heavier than Cobalt batteries, but what SparkEV showed was that even heavier could result in better range and efficiency compared to crap like Leaf.

Windbourne

uh no. LFP does not last as long nor have the performance.
Its ONLY advantage is that it was simple to manufacture and did not require loads of QA that nations like China has not mastered yet.
Likewise, it is less likely to catch on fire, though china has had plenty of those.

eject

Maybe they should look into higher charging rates.

Adnan Yakub

Cobalt free batteries for electric vehicles required? Please send me the know how about it’s use, recharging, C&F Karachi Pakistan cost.? Or warranty if any? Also let us Know the complete know how?

Adnan Yakub

You are requested to send details of your EV Lithium batteries with less Cobalt comparison with Chinese Lithium batteries for EV. Which is better for EV. I am planning to import. Kindly compare cost of batteries as well. Easy to use, easy to charge, duration , long lasting, etc. Kindly guide me and help me importing the best suitable for EV. My email address is. adnanyakub@hotmail.com