Tesla, Audi in pilot schemes to aid battery transparency, GBA says

Carmakers Tesla and Audi have participated in a project to establish the digital twin of a physical battery for electric vehicles (EVs) by showing its sustainability credentials through the supply chain

In a move to scale sustainable, responsible and circular battery value chains by 2030 to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement on climate, through the electrification of the transport and power sectors, the Global Battery Alliance (GBA) conducted three pilot projects using its new Battery Passport.

One pilot showed that Tesla used cobalt from Glencore’s Kamoto Copper asset in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and cylindrical battery cells made by LG Energy Solution in China.

The other two pilots in the project tracked the battery supply chain of Audi.

The first of these pilot schemes showed that Audi used cobalt from unspecified large-scale mining in the DRC as well as lithium from large-scale mining in Chile, while its prismatic battery cells were produced in Hungary and supplied by Samsung SDI.

The second pilot showed that Audi used cobalt from the DRC as well as from Chinese battery maker CATL and its recycling subsidiary Brunp. It also used lithium from Australia, and its prismatic battery cells were produced by CATL in China, the proof of concept showed.

Each pilot provided the individual battery serial number, technical specifications, and its environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance indicators through the supply chain from mine to battery, according to the GBA.

The proof of concept was launched at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and came with the provenance of raw materials becoming increasingly important, not just due to regulations but also due to consumer pressure on corporates to meet high sustainability standards.

Pressure mounting on battery material ESG standards

Companies have been coming under pressure to ensure that the raw materials they use are sourced sustainably and do not involve child labor, poor environmental standards, or high-carbon emissions, among other things.

The goal of the Battery Passport is to allow customers to make more informed purchasing decisions and to drive sustainable sourcing, processing and manufacturing practices in the industry in the future, the GBA said.

Increased transparency will shine a light on the provenance of raw materials and could lead to a change in purchasing patterns in the future. When some cobalt production in the DRC was found to be linked to child labor, car manufacturers opted to move away from the mineral in batteries, and manufacturers worked to engineer it out of their cathodes as much as was possible.

This led to a decline in the price of cobalt, standard grade, in-whs Rotterdam, through 2018 and 2019 when some companies tried to avoid sourcing from the DRC altogether.

There has, meanwhile, been increasing demand for pricing transparency in nickel products, leading Fastmarkets to increase the frequency of its nickel sulfate pricing in October 2022, after launching the price assessment in April 2021.

Liquidity in the international sulfate market remains thin, with much of the material tied up in long-term contract negotiations. Fastmarkets most recently assessed the nickel sulfate premium, cif China, Japan and Korea, at $1,400 per tonne on January 13.

Fastmarkets is also proposing to amend the name of its nickel mixed hydroxide-precipitate expressed price assessment, and to amend the nickel content specifications to reflect the market more closely.

According to Benedikt Sobotka, chief executive officer of ERG and co-chair of the GBA, the Battery Passport is the first and only passport to be developed by stakeholders spanning the entire battery value chain, “making it the standard bearer for battery transparency,” he said.

Battery Passports to become EU requirement by 2026

“Our attention will now turn to benchmarking Battery Passport data and issuing quality seals, based on sustainability performance, to provide a trusted source of data to end-consumers, guiding purchasing decisions and triggering improvement actions across the value chain,” he said.

The concept of a Battery Passport has already been endorsed at the 2021 G7 Leaders’ Meeting, in the EU Battery Regulation and by the Canadian and US administrations. A Battery Passport will become a requirement in the EU by 2026, with other regions likely to follow suit.

The GBA plans to continue to evolve the battery passport architecture, it said, and will work on developing rules and mechanisms for performance scoring, data governance, assurance and verification, including of IT instruments.

Members of the GBA include Audi, BASF, CATL, Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), Glencore, LG Energy Solution, Umicore, Tesla, Volkswagen AG, and IT solution providers, as well as leading non-governmental and international organizations plus government institutions.

Visit our dedicated battery materials page to discover more insights on the factors at play in the industry in 2023 and beyond.

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