BMW sources sustainable Moroccan cobalt
Ensuring ethical battery metal for rapidly expanding EV models Metal Tech News – July 9, 2020
Last updated 7/29/2020 at 3:33am
BMW Group has secured a deal for 100 million euros worth of the sustainably sourced cobalt needed for the lithium-ion batteries that are powering its expanding line-up of electric vehicles.
This important but oft-controversial battery metal will be acquired from Managem Group, a Moroccan mining company that produces cobalt, copper, fluorite, gold, silver, and zinc at its seven mines in Morocco and one in Sudan.
The agreement with Managem will provide BMW with about 20% of its cobalt needs over the next five years, the balance is being sourced from Australia.
"Cobalt is an important raw material for electromobility. By signing this supply contract with Managem today, we are continuing to secure our raw material needs for battery cells," said Andreas Wendt, member of the BMW Board of Management responsible for purchasing and supplier network.
BMW currently produces the fully electric BMW i3 and MINI Cooper, and several plug-in hybrid models.
With the coming additions of the BMW iX3, to be produced in China later this year, and the BMW iNEXT and BMW i4 models, to be begin production in Germany next year, the luxury automaker will have five fully electric production series vehicles by the end of 2021.
This increase in BMW EVs is expected to continue at a brisk pace.
"We are systematically driving electrification of our vehicle fleet. By 2023, we aim to have 25 electrified models in our line-up – more than half of them fully-electric," said Wendt. "Our need for raw materials will increase in line with this. For cobalt alone, we expect our needs to roughly triple by 2025."
UPDATE: BMW announced the the world premiere of its iX3, a fully electric sports activity vehicle, on July 14. Further details can be read at BMW adds SUV to electric vehicle lineup in the current edition of Metal Tech News.
Ethical and sustainable supply
The motors and batteries in EVs require a whole group of metals and minerals that were not needed or were minimally required for vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. For example, the lithium-ion batteries require cobalt, graphite, lithium, nickel, and manganese, and rare earths often go into the powerful magnets needed for the motors.
Foreseeing increased competition for these mined materials, auto companies like BMW are being proactive in securing an ethical and sustainable supply. This is particularly important for cobalt, due to human rights abuses and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an African country that supplies more than 60% of the world's new cobalt supply.
To ensure that its battery materials are mined with the highest environmental and human rights standards, BMW has decided to acquire both its cobalt and lithium from mines that it has evaluated and supply these materials to its two battery cell manufacturers, CATL and Samsung SDI – ensuring full transparency over these battery metals.
More information on an agreement to secure the lithium BMW Group needs for the batteries powering its electrified vehicles can be found in Plenty of lithium to go around for now in the Jan. 15 edition of Metal Tech News.
"For us, ethically responsible raw material extraction and processing starts at the very beginning of the value chain – we take a keen interest in battery cell supply chains that extends all the way down into the mines themselves," said Ralf Hattler, senior vice president purchasing indirect goods and services, raw material, production partner at BMW.
BMW says compliance with environmental standards and respect for human rights are the top priorities when it is seeking raw materials for its vehicles, and the highest sustainability standards apply to cobalt Managem's mines.
In addition to directly sourcing its cobalt and lithium, BMW Group is eliminating the use of rare earths in its electric drive trains from 2021 on.
"This means we will no longer be dependent on their availability," said Wendt.