Electric Vehicles

Volvo implementing blockchain to help trace lifespan of cobalt used in batteries

Volvo has announced plans to use blockchain to help trace the life path of the cobalt it uses in its electrified vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Cars

Cobalt production is on the rise to support the growing needs of the automotive industry as automakers set electrified vehicle adoption targets worldwide. The calls for the adoption of sustainable business practices are growing larger as well, with Volvo announcing last week that it will lower its carbon footprint by 40 percent.

Volvo Cars will become the first automaker to implement global traceability of cobalt used in its batteries by applying blockchain technology. The technology will allow for transparency when it comes to sharing reliable data on the supply chain of the materials that cannot be simply altered undetected for profit.

"We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials," said Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo Cars. "With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers."

The Swedish automaker gets its batteries from CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea, who have also agreed to be part of this tracking program when it kicks off later this year.

Technology firms Circulor and Oracle will operate the blockchain technology in CATL's supply chain following successful testing during a pilot program over the summer. The Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, RCS Global, and IBM are rolling out the technology in LG Chem's supply chain.

In the case of cobalt, blockchain will record the material's origin, attributes including weight and size, chain of custody, and supplier behavior.

The agreements regarding blockchain technology between Volvo Cars, CATL, and LG Chem cover the supply of batteries over the coming decade for next generation Volvo and Polestar models.

What is blockchain? A blockchain is a digital ledger that includes records linked to each other via cryptography. When used in the constrains of supply chains, the technology is used to create records of transactions which cannot be altered. It also sets a standard for what data can be recorded. Blockchain allows participants to verify and audit transactions independently.

Ford trucks reigned supreme over the last decade.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For decades, Kelley Blue Book has been studying auto sales trends and reporting on those findings. To mark the close of the decade, 2010-2020, KBB looked back at the numbers for the last 10 years and found some surprising things.

The single best sales month was December 2016.

Nico Rosberg 2016 F1 Champtionship

Photo by Getty Images

There was a lot going on in 2016, not the least exciting of which was Nico Rosberg wining the F1 Championship. Automakers sold more vehicles in 2016 than they did at any other point during the decade. The December 2016 sales capped off a record year. Here's the top five months over the decade by volume:

  • December 2016: 1,683,408
  • March 2018: 1,648,222
  • May 2015: 1,634,833
  • December 2015: 1,634,329
  • August 2019: 1,632,287

Subaru might have had the best decade of everyone.

2020 Subaru Outback

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Sure, Ford sold a lot of trucks and Nissan saw tremendous early-decade growth in its SUV lineup, but Subaru is the real winner. In 2010, Subaru sold 263,000 vehicles in the U.S. By the end of the decade, in 2019, they sold 700,000. They probably would have sold more but they scaled back production to launch two new vehicles at the end of the decade.

Most forecasts were wrong about December 2019, but that doesn't mean it was a great month.

2020 Ram 1500

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Analysts forecasted weak sales for the last month of 2019 but the market surprised them delivering a strong result. However, December 2019 was only the 26th best-selling month of the decade according to KBB, which measured 1,506,401 units sold. See the best-selling trucks of 2019 here.

Volvo's best month was the last month of the decade.

2019 Volvo XC60

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Volvo left the decade with the best month it has had in 10 years. The company sold 12,360 units. However, Volvo had higher sales in the months prior to the Great Recession.

Ford delivered the highest monthly sales total of all automakers in the last 10 years.

2019 Ford Focus

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

While some may bemoan the Blue Oval's current state of automotive affairs, they had a really great month five and a half years ago. In May 2014, Ford sold 244,501 vehicles, roughly 15.5% of the entire industry's sales for the month. In that single month, Ford sold more vehicles than Smart did in the entire decade. See the best-selling new cars of 2019 here.

Buyers are spending more on their cars than ever before.

2020 Toyota Highlander

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

According to KBB, "At the end of 2011, the average transaction price (ATP) for a new vehicle in the U.S. was near $30,000. In February 2015, ATP for the month was above $33,000 for the first time ($33,056). It broke through $35,000 in June of 2017, and passed $37,000 later that year, in December when transaction prices commonly peak due to the high volume of luxury vehicle sales. Transaction prices were above $38,000 through the final three months of 2019. The Kelley Blue Book ATP in December 2019 was $38,767 – the highest point in the past decade."

See the best-selling new SUVs of 2019 here.

Tesla came to play.

2019 Tesla Model3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

In 2010 and 2011, Tesla wasn't really on anyone's radar and now it's a household name. KBB estimates that Tesla sold 12 vehicles in June 2012. They reached 10,000 in sales per month in March 2018 and hit peak monthly sales in December 2018 when 32,600 vehicles were sold.

High-performance cars were costliest in January 2019.

2020 Ferrari Roma

Photo courtesy of Ferrari N.V.

Everyone seems to drive a Toyota RAV4 or a Honda Civic. For the select few wealthy enough to enjoy the fruits of the Acura NSX, Ford GT, and anything with a horse logo on it, this decade was kind for options but expensive. KBB says that in January 2019, the ATP for the segment peaked for the decade at $121,739.

With the Trump Tax Cuts came more fleet sales.

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

According to KBB, "Six of the Top 10 best months for fleet sales in the past decade occurred after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In May 2019, an estimated 425,000 vehicles were sold to fleet buyers, a record 27 percent of total U.S. sales. Fleet, it's worth noting, generally accounts for 20% of sales in a given month."

There was never a time in the last 10 years that the Ford F-Series was not the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

2020 Ford Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ten straight years of month-to-month dominance. Muhammed Ali wasn't even that good. Ford has sold 7,578,608 F-Series pickups in the last decade - one every 41 seconds. The best month for the F-Series was December 2017 where, in a single month, the company sold 89,385 F-Series trucks.

A new technology developed by General Motors may change the trailering experience as we know it, making it safer for everyone involved.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

For some folks, towing a trailer is second nature. It's like riding a bicycle or going for a swim. But for a vast majority of others, towing can be intimidating, scary and even downright dangerous. No matter what category you fall into, truck makers have been working feverishly to come up with new and exciting technologies to make towing easier and safer for you.

One of the biggest challenges of towing, at least at speed, is the abrupt need to come to a stop. Whether it be someone pull out in front of you or the traffic light turned red sooner than you'd expect. Towing down a grade in high winds can create even more issues.

eBoost braking assist trailer This diagram shows the impact of the new eBoost technology.Photo courtesy of General Motors

To help with towing and stopping, electronic trailer brake controllers are common on rigs that tow. They help control the trailer by apply the brakes in the trailer. Setting up a trailer brake control is often described as an art, not a science.

That's where new General Motors tech comes in. Using their electronic brake system from their heavy-duty pickup, the company has fitted it to a trailer for the purpose of improving braking. Their goal was to equip a trailer with the company's eBoost braking system and see how well they could stop with it.

Their goal was to take a 2020 Silverado HD without a trailer and see how far it took to stop. Then they attached a trailer with 9,000 pounds and set a target of stopping in the same distance. They were within three feet.

That means in a full-on, emergency stop scenario a truck towing a 9,000-pound trailer can stop as short as a truck without a trailer. Not to overwhelm you with hyperbole, but that is a game changer.

Why? There's no complicated setup of the trailer brake controller. The equipment already exists, and GM managed to do it with around $1,000 worth of hardware that's already available. It would require a trailer manufacturer to integrate it with their trailers, but the safety benefits are huge.

Unlike some aftermarket anti-lock braking systems, primarily from Bosch, this system communicates with the truck, and can even use electronic stability control to reduce trailer sway.

It's a prototype at this point. GM is hoping to find a trailer maker to help develop the technology. The marketing department is still figuring out all of the details, but in addition to offering it on a brand-new trailer, it might even be possible for certain dealerships or installers to add it to existing trailers after the fact.

While there is a truck war going on with how can tow and haul the most, the efforts that GM is making right now for improving towing safety, such as their invisible trailering system and this prototype trailer brake system, makes the roads safer for everyone – even if they don't drive a GM.