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Projected demand for cobalt as sales of hybrid vehicles increase over the next decade. The question is, can supply -- which is currently constrained -- keep up with this demand?

Hybrid Cars and Their Minor Metals

Roland Chavasse looks at the role of minor metals in hybrid car production in a paper presented at the 2005 Minor Metals conference in Lisbon, Portugal

By Roland Chavasse

How much cobalt do you think is in your average gasoline-electric hybrid car?

Would over three pounds surprise you? And cobalt isn't the only "minor" metal that helps make hybrids go. There's also nickel, samarium, neodymium, boron and up to 45 kgs (100 lbs) of copper. Even more intriguing, at present, no cobalt is mined in America. The largest sources are cobalt are the Democratic Republic of the Congo (5,000 tons), Zambia (4,000 tons), Canada (4,000 tons), Russia (3,500 tons) and Australia (2,500 tons).

And all of these producers and refiners are, like their counterparts in the oil industry, at production capacity, a recipe that is sure to influence the price of future hybrid vehicles.

An experienced metals trader with SFP Metals (UK) Ltd. -- as well as an EV World reader -- Roland Chavasse looks at the forecast growth of the hybrid vehicle market and its impact on the minor metals market in general and cobalt, in particular. He generously granted EV World permission to make his Lisbon paper, delivered the first of June, available to EV World readers with the stipulation that we keep it in its original PDF format in order to preserve the graphics and company attributions.

You can download "Developments in Hybrid Vehicles and Their Potential Influence on Minor Metals" here.

Curious about the sources of cobalt and its availability, which Mr. Chavasse doesn't discuss in his paper, we did a little research and found a couple of interesting documents, including the table below, courtesy of the Cobalt Institute. Click here for background information on cobalt.

At present rates of consumption, it is estimated that we have enough cobalt to last between 100 and 400 years.

Country
Mined
Refined
Approx. Refined Qty
Australia Yes Yes 2,500
Botswana Yes    
Brazil Yes Yes 750
Belgium   Yes 1,200
Canada Yes Yes 4,000
China Yes Yes 1,100
Cuba Yes    
France   Yes 140
Finland   Yes 7,500
Japan   Yes 220
Morocco Yes Yes 1,200
New Caledonia Yes    
Norway   Yes 4,000
Russia Yes Yes 3,500
South Africa Yes Yes 400
Uganda     500
D.R.C. Yes Yes 5,000
Zambia Yes Yes 4,000
TOTAL
35,000 (Tonnes)

Times Article Viewed: 8467
Published: 16-Jun-2005

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