BMW Pledges Increased Transparency for Its Cobalt Sourcing

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The posts may have shown up in your Facebook feed: “Children have to work in cobalt mines so YOU can enjoy your electric car,” hinting at the well-known fact that cobalt is one of the most important materials that go into making battery cells, alongside lithium.
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EV owners are quick to dismiss these reports as nothing else than big oil propaganda, but there’s actually more to it than that. It seems roughly half the global cobalt supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a large country in Central Africa that, despite having the word “democratic” in its name, is not exactly an example to be followed in the matter. In fact, UNICEF estimated that roughly 40,000 children were working in the mining industry as a whole in 2014 (according to the Green Car Reports), which means cobalt makes no exception.

Since a lot of the people who buy electric cars are highly ethical and think about the bigger problems of the world such as global warming and oil dependency, having child labor in the supply chain of their vehicles isn’t going to sit well with them. Well, at least with those who haven’t bought the car yet.

BMW isn’t building its own battery cells, but apparently, it doesn’t want to hide behind this little aspect. Instead, the German carmaker has vowed to provide increased transparency over the supply chain of the battery cells that go into its cars, quenching any fears over forced child labor its clients might have.

Despite only offering a single battery-powered model at the moment, the i3, BMW is also trying to seal deals that would ensure the company has a steady supply of cobalt and lithium for the next ten years. This would allow the Bavarians to focus on developing and building future EV models without having to worry about raw material availability.

With the EV market expanding – and let’s not forget the batteries in our smartphones, tablets, and laptops also use lithium and cobalt – the demand for these raw materials is going to rise to the point where it could become a limiting factor for those who weren’t cautious enough at the right time.


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