The days of uncertainty involving the utility of electric cars are over. At first, they were basically mobile curiosity pieces with high eMPG, but with limited range and questionable crash tolerance. Today, almost every family would like to have one. However, when a fantastically popular product develops, there are often downsides. In the case of electric cars, there are significant downsides when it comes to some of the raw materials used in their construction. In particular, some of the ones needed to make their batteries.

Raw materials

Electric cars use many exotic rare materials in their battery packs. Metals such Cobalt, lithium, and nickel are just a few. According to Victory Lane Chevrolet of Fort Myers, FL these metals are needed to make the lithium-ion batteries in the Volt sedans, among other Chevrolet car and trucks.  The problem is that with demand increasing dramatically, some side effects have occurred in the battery raw material supply chain. For example, many of these raw materials come from third world countries where labor is often unreasonably cheap and there are pollution concerns. Let's look at the supply chain of the rare earth metal Cobalt.

Cobalt supply

Cobalt is a metal found in the Earth's crust and is one of the critical raw materials used to make lithium-ion batteries. Cobalt is mined all over the world, but much of the global supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to UNICEF, some 240,000 Congolese are involved in cobalt mining, and wages may not be at the levels that they should. Thankfully, various social and humanitarian groups are working to make sure working conditions and pay rise to acceptable levels.

Making a difference

Since the demand for cobalt and other scarce metals is driven not only electric car manufacturers but many other electronics companies (specifically cell phone manufacturers), these companies should be held accountable for enforcing ethically-sourcing policies.  This is a top down approach, and it has been shown to be very effective.

Oversight is involved

Thankfully, some companies are off to a good start. Let's look at cobalt supply again. A few years ago, tech giants like Samsung, and Sony combined forces and created the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RPI). Members of the RPI have pledged to follow guidelines for the cobalt supply chain. Today, the RPI is a large and growing environmental agency.

Other raw materials

In this article, we focused on just cobalt, but most of the other raw materials, in particular, the rare ones, are being overseen in a similar fashion. Thankfully, the days of exploitation and other practices are being addressed and being taken care of.

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