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Panasonic tackles soaring cobalt costs

Panasonic is reportedly developing lithium batteries that require half the current quantity of cobalt.

The new battery designs are motivated by the increasing cost of cobalt, and the potential threat of shortages, which have come about as a result of surging demand for lithium-ion batteries. 

The battery production industry, which reportedly consumed 51 per cent of the world’s cobalt supply in 2016, uses the material in the production of these lithium-ion cells – such as those Panasonic produces for Tesla. 

In January 2017, for example, Australian Mining magazine reported that one tonne of cobalt would cost $A41,360. By the start of 2018, the price had risen to $A96,000. As demand for EVs shows no signs of slowing, particularly as more manufacturers are now beginning to offer them, prices of cobalt will likely continue to climb.

Panasonic, which has already achieved significant reductions in cobalt use in its cells, reportedly aims to halve the cobalt content of its automotive batteries within the next three years. Yoshio Ito, the chief of Panasonic’s automotive arm, is stated by Reuters to have said: “At the research and development level, we’ve already achieved such batteries.”

Panasonic, in order to further supply the ever-expanding EV market, opened another dedicated automotive battery production facility in China in April. The first shipment left the plant on 13 March, bolstering Panasonic US and Japan-based production facilities. 

The company further plans to open another battery plant in Japan, which will work alongside its existing five factories to meet rising demand.

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