Umicore Says Cobalt Recycling Could Help Power Millions of EVs

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Recycling cobalt from used smartphones could be the answer to powering millions of electric cars in the next decade.

As demand for electric vehicles continues to increase and automakers look to secure long-term supply of battery metals, Belgium-based producer Umicore (EBR:UMI) expects recycling to become a growing source of cobalt.

“There is an amazing mine of cobalt that is totally untapped,” Umicore Chief Executive Marc Grynberg told the Financial Times on Monday (February 12). He added that around 10 percent of global production goes into smartphones, and if it is not extracted from dead batteries, that cobalt is lost forever.

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“We have billions of dismissed end-of-life smartphones …. That could be utilised to power millions of electric vehicles. Millions,” Grynberg noted. “If there is one thing that needs to be done … starting now is to make sure there are mechanisms in place to motivate people to return their disused smartphones.”

One option could be a non-refundable deposit on the purchase of a phone, Grynberg suggested. Currently only around 5 to 10 percent of smartphones are collected for reuse and recycling.

In order to meet increasing demand for electric car batteries, cobalt supply will need to reach 180,000 tonnes by 2026, up from 48,000 tonnes in 2016, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence says. By that time, recycling will start to make up a growing portion of supply, Grynberg added.

Umicore is not the only firm that believes cobalt recycling could help balance the potential deficit in the market. On Tuesday (February 12), Samsung SDI (KRX:006400) announced plans to recycle cobalt from used smartphones in Continue Reading

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