7 Nov 18

Kicking cobalt out of EV batteries

One of the main counterarguments of EVs is the use of critical materials in their batteries, like lithium and cobalt. Kenan Sahin claims to have found the solution: a unique cathode formula that requires less cobalt, without losing performance.

The new battery technology presented by Kenan Sahin will reduce the need for cobalt, and hence lower the overall battery cost. The price of cobalt is already on the rise, due to fear of scarcity considering the increasing demand for EVs. 

Moreover, the fact that most of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo puts huge question marks behind the real sustainability of EVs in terms of child labour, human rights, labour practices and armed conflicts.

Better cathodes, less cobalt

The new technology is called GEMX and will reduce the cobalt content from battery cathodes from 20% (for some technologies) to 4%. By placing cobalt at critical places of the cathode particles, the cobalt use can be reduced, yet with higher performance and lower costs. 

The 77-year old scientist-turned-entrepreneur made developing better cathodes his life's work, considering its critical compound in car batteries. Since many chemical giants were on the same mission, Sahin decided to join them, rather than beat them. 

BASF catched up with cathode market leader Umicore SA, and turned to Sahin’s CAMX Power company and its lithium nickel oxide formula in April 2016. The same year the London-based company Johnson Matthey followed. 

Today, both companies are working on Sahin’s CAMX technology and intend to develop it further. Both BASF and Johnson Matthey plan to invest respectively €400 million and €260 million in the production of cathodes. Whereas Johnson Matthey openly admit to spend it on Sahin’s technology, BASF did not specify the chemistry it will use.

Nevertheless, Kenan Sahin sees how the future of GEMX is about to take off, since the technology has already been granted patents in the EU, the US, China and Japan. Moreover, Sahin claims to be in talks with large battery manufacturers already, one of which has agreed to buy a licence.

Authored by: Fien Van den steen