Currently, the transportation industry is focusing on turning vehicles from smog machines into green machines. The scope also includes the electric grid, where the vehicles get their charge. Because if behind the curtain coal or other nefarious materials energize the grid by spewing pollution into the air, that defeats the purpose too.
As vehicles continue to get their green on, the next step is for automakers to responsibly source materials to build the vehicles themselves. Mother Nature is bountiful and generous, but she’s not infinite.
Focus on Cobalt First
Today, Volkswagen announced joining an open industry collaboration for the responsible sourcing of strategic minerals, with a special emphasis on the cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Other participants include Ford Motor Company, Huayou Cobalt, IBM and LG Chem, along with co-founding responsible sourcing specialists RCS Global Group.
The consortium of companies will use blockchain technology built on the IBM Blockchain Platform and powered by the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric. In this way it can trace each major stage of the supply chain starting with mining through to the end-user in close-to-real time. This method provides immediate accountability. Previously, the industry relied upon third-party audits and manual entries—a system rife with the possibility of cooking the books, as it were.
With so much public concern about the environmental impacts of not only battery production, but the electricity to charge them, this is a great first step for the industry. EVs currently represent a small fraction of the total global vehicle market, but as they gain more market share, the challenge to source materials from the cleanest and most responsible places will become tougher.