It is one of the essential components of electric batteries for which the whole sector is struggling with the supply difficulties of recent months: cobalt. To overcome this problem, Renault announced on Wednesday, June 1, that it had signed a contract for the supply of this mineral with the Moroccan group Managem Group.
Although the amount has not been announced, this contract provides for the delivery of 5,000 tons of cobalt sulfate annually for seven years, starting in 2025. Production will be from “low carbon” cobalt ore, thanks to the use of 80% of wind energy but also by recycling the materials of the batteries at the end of their useful life. This contract will allow Renault to achieve its goal of reducing the carbon footprint of its batteries, set at 20% in 2025 and 35% in 2030 compared to 2020.
The French group says so “This is a closer supply to our low-carbon, low-power battery manufacturing ecosystem in Europe.” welcomed the purchasing director of the Renault-Nissan alliance, Gianluca De Ficchy.
This agreement also complements Renault’s investments in Morocco, which are expected to reach a total of € 2.5 billion by 2025, with a total target of € 3 billion.
An electric stick in the boxes
Renault, which seeks to accelerate the electrification of its range, has been working in parallel since February in the creation of a dedicated entity, separate from its thermal activities, “in order to strengthen its efficiency and operational performance”. A choice already made by some of its competitors, such as Volvo and its dedicated Polestar delegation or Ford and its electrical activities gathered under the name “Model e”.
Renault’s electric pole should be located in France when its thermal pole is installed abroad. Each would have 10,000 employees by 2023, or about a fifth of its workforce worldwide, the group said in mid-May.
The autonomous entity “Electric Vehicles and Software” would include French engineering activities (part of the Technocentre in Guyancourt, the Renault Software Lab, the site of Lardy (Essonne) and other study sites in Île-de-France), the industry (the three factories of its ElectriCity as well as that of Cléon, in the north), as well as the support functions linked to these activities.
Another entity would bring together its activities and transmission technologies and thermal and hybrid engines based outside France, with its Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Romanian, Brazilian and Chilean engine factories, as well as research centers in Spain, Romania, Turkey and Brazil.
The diamond brand is expected to present the findings of these reflections to investors in the fall of 2022.
Battle of the metals
In any case, global manufacturers are engaged in fierce competition in order to ensure their supply of the rare metals needed for battery manufacturing and the transition to electricity for their range of vehicles. The American electric car maker Tesla, for example, signed a megacontract for nickel in New Caledonia.
Last October, Renault itself announced a nickel supply contract with the Finnish group Terrafame, following another contract, this time for lithium, with the German Vulcan Energy.
However, the European Union runs the risk of facing metal supply problems as early as 2030. Countries are betting on these materials to replace hydrocarbons and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. a considerable increase in needs.
Researchers at KU Leuven University, for Eurométaux, the European association of metal producers, made the calculations based on the industrial plans planned for the continent. Thus, by 2050, the EU will need 800,000 tonnes of lithium per year, which is 35 times more than today. This is twice the nickel. As for cobalt, the estimates are + 330%, + 33% for aluminum, + 35% for copper, + 45% for silicon, +10 to 15% for zinc.
“The good news” According to researchers, by 2050, between 40% and 75% of needs could be met by recycling, if Europe invests quickly in infrastructure, increases its mandatory recycling rates and addresses bottlenecks. But in the meantime, she “It is exposed to a critical shortage over the next 15 years due to the lack of higher amounts of metals to support the beginnings of its carbon-free energy system,” they point out.
Currently, the EU depends mainly on imports of metals, for example from Russia for aluminum, nickel or copper. Over the next decade, China and Indonesia will dominate the boom in the refining capacity of battery metals, the report says, recommending that Europe link up with socially and environmentally responsible suppliers.