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.

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The entire VW lineup sees new features and tech.

Volkswagen

The 2022 Volkswagen lineup will be tech-forward and will have more standard features than before. That's the message the automaker sent with its most recent announcement, which gives us a solid look at the company's 2022 catalog and the standard features that will be distributed across it.

Most new VW models feature the brand's Digital Cockpit system, which is a digital gauge cluster that can display maps, audio and entertainment features, and more. The Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, Golf GTI, and Golf R all come with the feature.


2022 Golf R VW's Digital Cockpit is not standard on several models.Volkswagen


VW's IQ.DRIVE system is also widely standard in the automaker's catalog. The technology includes a hands-on semi-automated driving function with lane centering and capacitive feedback on the steering wheel. Volkswagen says that in town, the system can help alert drivers to upcoming obstacles or to sudden changes in traffic activity ahead. IQ.DRIVE uses front and rear radar, a front camera, and several ultrasound sensors.

Several advanced driver assist features are also included in the IQ.DRIVE system. They include forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, active blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane keep assist, and a semi-automated vehicle assistance system.


2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The Tiguan gets updated styling for the new model year.Volkswagen


Beyond tech updates for the new model year, Volkswagen has made changes to several other models' styling and powertrains. The Jetta, Jetta GLI, and Tiguan received fresh styling for the new model year, while the Arteon sedan now comes with a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.


2022 Volkswagen Taos The Taos is brand-new for 2022.Volkswagen


Finally, a new vehicle hits the VW lineup for 2022. The Taos is a compact SUV with styling similar to that of the Atlas SUV. It also gets the Digital Cockpit system as standard kit, as well as a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and optional all-wheel drive. The Taos starts at around $23,000 before destination.

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General Motors is hoping to recycling as leftovers from the battery making process. This is the battery in the 2023 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors and LG Energy Solution have formed Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture centered around the production of batteries for future GM vehicles. That company has entered into an agreement with Li-Cycle to recycle up to 100 percent of the material scrap from battery cell manufacturing.

The partnership will allow Ultium Cells to recycle battery materials (cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese, and aluminum). A press release from the company says that it expects 95 percent of those recycled materials to be used in future battery products or in adjacent industries.

"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain," said Ajay Kochhar, Li-Cycle's president and CEO and co-founder. "This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining."

GM approach to battery materials Photo courtesy of General Motors

This effort plays into the common concerns surrounding battery manufacturing from mining of raw materials to end-of-life disposal. It's also on par for the sustainability efforts that GM has put forward in recent years, extending across numerous aspects of its business including the recycling of clay used in the modeling process.

GM says that the "hydrometallurgical process through which these battery materials will be recycled emits 30 percent less greenhouse gas than traditional processes". This will lessen the overall environmental impact of battery production.

"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90 percent of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025," said Ken Morris, GM vice president of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles. "Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials."

Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100 percent of the battery packs received from customers, including any packs that have been replaced as the result of warranty service. The company says that most current GM EVs are repaired with refurbished packs.

Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle will begin the new scrap recycling process later this year.

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