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From mine to battery: rare earths certified with the blockchain

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Tesla’s environmental crusade does not only involve banning energy-intensive cryptocurrencies, but also embraces the cause of sustainable lithium batteries. An essential ingredient of the batteries of electric cars and of all electronic devices is in fact cobalt, a mineral extracted almost entirely in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the working conditions of miners are not regulated and abuses and violations of rights often occur. of minors employed for extraction, as well as being a concern from the point of view of environmental sustainability. Tesla has just announced that it will address the problem by working with a consortium of cobalt producers to develop a blockchain platform to track the raw material “from mine to battery”. The goal of the platform is to create “a transparent, open and global register” that can ensure its origin down to the single unit. The Re | Source Consortium, which is based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is made up of China Molybdenum Co., Eurasian Resources Group and Glencore. The platform’s pilot is expected to depart by the end of this year, and is expected to be fully operational by 2022. Rival Ford Motor Company has also been working on a similar project since last year, a cobalt tracking race that, with healthy competition can do a lot to improve the conditions of mine workers, making companies that use this mineral responsible and consumers more aware of what lies behind the lithium batteries that power from electric cars to smartphones. however, it has been looking for alternatives to cobalt for some time, which in addition to the problem of sustainability also raises questions about its scarcity in nature. In addition to the promise to use batteries that contain the least amount possible (Musk speaks of a percentage of around 3%), already a year ago he announced a partnership with Contemporary Amperex Technology for the supply of phosphate batteries in his Shanghai gigafactory. of lithium, which do not contain cobalt, and which in addition to having no trace of the disputed mineral also have lower production costs, while Tesla is facing some significant challenges, which risk compromising its image. On the one hand, the ongoing delays in vehicle deliveries, especially in California and Florida where they are extending to weeks and months, caused by the difficulty of keeping up with the growing demand for electric cars. A considerable chaos, also because the retailers admitted that they had not received information from the parent company, and therefore found themselves having to face the angry customers alone without any support or forecast from Tesla. And then the defeat in the “Battery Gate ”, A class action that forced Tesla to pay out a million and a half dollars to compensate about 1,800 owners of American Model S with 625 dollars each. At the center of the case a software update of 2019 that had reduced the autonomy of the Model S batteries (out of production in 2016) by 30/50 km and increased the times of the “fast recharge”. A similar lawsuit is ongoing in Norway as well: Tesla has been found guilty of worsening the performance of its cars with an update, and now, if it doesn’t appeal, it will have to pay $ 16,000 each to thousands of owners.

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