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Volvo introduces battery metal tracking for electric vehicles

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  • Volvo Cars has introduced a battery passport to track the origins of raw materials in EV batteries, promoting transparency and sustainability.
  • The initiative uses Circulor's blockchain technology to provide detailed information on the supply chain, including the CO2 footprint and recycled content.
  • The battery passport aims to address ethical concerns in the mining of key battery metals like cobalt and nickel, ensuring responsible sourcing practices.

Volvo Cars has unveiled a new supply-chain tracking system that allows customers to trace the origins of key raw materials used in the batteries of its electric vehicles (EVs). This innovative system, developed in collaboration with British technology firm Circulor, is set to revolutionize the way consumers and manufacturers approach the sourcing of battery metals.

The core of this initiative is the 'battery passport,' an electronic record that provides authenticated data on the raw materials used in EV batteries, including their origins, weight, and size. This passport also details the chain of custody of components and the recycled content within the battery, making it a comprehensive tool for ensuring ethical and sustainable sourcing.

A Response to Growing Concerns

The introduction of the battery passport comes at a time when there is increasing scrutiny over the environmental and social impacts of the materials used in the energy transition. Vanessa Butani, head of global sustainability at Volvo Cars, emphasized the importance of this initiative, stating, "Ensuring an ethical supply chain for our battery raw materials is a major focus area for us. By providing our electrified Volvo cars with an individual battery passport, we boost transparency around the origin of the materials used in our batteries and how we manage their entire life cycle."

Technological Backbone

Circulor's blockchain technology plays a crucial role in this system, functioning as a digital ledger that tracks the journey of raw materials from extraction to the final product. This technology ensures that every step of the supply chain is transparent and verifiable, addressing the previously opaque nature of these processes. Johnson-Poensgen, CEO of Circulor, described the development process as a 'rock to car' journey, likening it to identifying and sourcing each ingredient in a cake and understanding its environmental cost.

Meeting Regulatory Requirements

The European Union has mandated that all EVs must possess a battery passport by 2027, making Volvo's early adoption of this technology a significant step forward. Initially, the battery passport will be available to customers in the EU and the US through an app or a QR code on the driver's door, starting with the Volvo EX90 models.

Promoting Responsible Sourcing

One of the primary objectives of the battery passport is to promote more responsible sourcing of materials. This is particularly important for metals like cobalt and nickel, which are essential for battery production but often come with significant ethical concerns. Approximately 10% of the world's cobalt is sourced from Congo, where artisanal mining practices, including child labor, are prevalent. By providing detailed information on the CO2 footprint, the percentage of recycled material used, and life cycle data, Volvo aims to improve the recyclability and overall sustainability of its batteries.

Industry-Wide Impact

The Global Battery Alliance (GBA), established in 2017 at the World Economic Forum, has been a key player in promoting transparency and sustainability in the battery supply chain. Volvo and Circulor are active members of the GBA, which has already launched several pilots, including a battery passport produced by Chinese battery giant CATL and German automaker Audi.

Susannah McLaren, Head of Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability at the Cobalt Institute and a GBA board member, highlighted the importance of responsible mining practices within the cobalt industry. "Responsible mining practices is a priority for the cobalt industry. Clean and responsible cobalt from industrial mining operations is possible and verifiable. The GBA's Battery Passport is one of the key mechanisms expected to bring new levels of transparency of the cobalt provenance," she said.

Volvo's introduction of the battery passport marks a significant step towards greater transparency and sustainability in the EV industry. By leveraging advanced blockchain technology and collaborating with industry leaders, Volvo is setting a new standard for responsible sourcing and environmental stewardship. As the demand for battery metals continues to rise, initiatives like this will be crucial in ensuring that the energy transition is both ethical and sustainable.

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