Toyota & Panasonic Charging Up on Modern Day Vibranium
By CultureBanx Team
Toyota & Panasonic ink deal to develop EV batteries
54% of the world's cobalt supply used in EV batteries is from Democratic Republic of Congo
Automaker Toyota (7203.T +0.58%) and electronics powerhouse Panasonic (6752.T +0.80%) are just the latest companies to join forces to grab a larger share of the electric vehicle (EV) market. They’ve inked a deal to develop batteries for these cars which are heavily reliant on Africa’s modern day vibranium known as cobalt.
Why This Matters: Demand is already high for the continent’s cobalt with 54% of the world's supply coming from Democratic Republic of Congo. A 2017 report from Morgan Stanley (MS +2.21%) projected as many as one- billion electric vehicles could be on the road worldwide by 2050, which is exactly why Toyota and Panasonic want to have a dominant stake in this sector. Toyota will own 51% of the joint venture and Panasonic will own the remaining 48%.
Darton Commodities predicts cobalt use in batteries is going to jump from 50,000 tons in 2016 to more than 320,000 tons by the year 2030. Companies like Toyota and Panasonic will have to fend off Apple (AAPL +3.31%) the world’s largest end user of cobalt, primarily for its iPhone production. Smartphones only use about eight grams of refined cobalt whereas a battery for an electric car requires over 1,000 times more.
They will of course be battling Tesla (TSLA +1.90%), the EV leader in addition to other automakers in the space for cobalt. Elon Musk told CultureBanx last summer that, "We use less than 3% cobalt in our batteries & will use none in next [generation]." We will have to wait and see just how true his statement will be.
What makes cobalt so valuable to EVs? This is where it gets a bit technical. Cobalt allows the cathodes in lithium-ion batteries to focus immense power in a confined space. Simply put, without the element's energy density, batteries lacking cobalt tend to perform worse.
Situational Awareness: The Congolese government has increased its tax on Cobalt exports by 50% and is considering labeling the mineral a strategic resource. This would increase the royalty for Cobalt from 2% to 10%. It's important to note that child labor issues have been reported in the mining of cobalt and it’s hard to track the metal's origination once it has reached the end of the supply chain.
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