[THE INVESTOR] South Korea’s leading battery maker Samsung SDI has embarked on research and development of cobalt-less batteries as a strategy to hedge against rising cobalt prices in the long run, the company said Monday.
Recent increases in the prices of cobalt have been a major headache for battery developers across the world, as the metal is a core material for lithium-ion batteries, according to the firm.
International cobalt prices soared from $34,600 per ton in January 2017 to $81,360 this year, rising by about 135 percent, due to ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo -- the biggest cobalt producer globally -- tax increases and rising demand for electric vehicles.
Samsung SDI has been coping with the surging material prices by partnering with suppliers and customers as a short-term measure.
However, the company believes it will need a long-term strategy to do without cobalt through in-depth R&D.
“Our new R&D focus is to reduce cobalt use significantly by developing new materials,” said a senior official at the firm.
In addition to the firm’s current efforts to halve the use of cobalt in batteries from around 20 percent by raising the proportion of nickel, Samsung SDI will start researching development of nearly cobalt-free batteries, it said.
The Korean firm has developed the technology to reduce cobalt in batteries down to 5 percent by expanding the use of nickel by more than 90 percent.
By Song Su-hyun / The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)