It is one of the essential components of electric batteries that the entire industry is fighting for because of the supply difficulties of recent months: cobalt. To solve this problem, Renault announced on Wednesday 1 June that it had signed a supply contract for this ore with the Moroccan group Managem Group.
Although the amount has not been communicated, this contract provides for the supply of 5,000 tons of cobalt sulphate per year for seven years, starting in 2025. Production will be from “low-carbon” cobalt ore, thanks to the use of 80% of energy from wind, but also through the recycling of battery materials at the end of their life. This contract will enable Renault to achieve its target of reducing the environmental footprint of its batteries, set at 20% by 2025 and 35% by 2030 compared to 2020.
The French group provides “So a delivery closer to our electric battery manufacturing ecosystem in Europe and low-carbon”, welcomed the purchasing director of the Renault-Nissan alliance, Gianluca De Ficchy.
This agreement also complements Renault’s investments in Morocco, which should total €2.5 billion by 2025, for a total target of €3 billion.
An electricity pole in the boxes
Renault, which wants to accelerate the electrification of its range, has been working since February in parallel with the creation of a special entity, separate from its thermal activities, “to boost efficiency and operational performance”† A choice already made by some of its competitors, such as Volvo and its dedicated Polestar subsidiary or Ford and its electric business gathered under the name “Model e”.
Renault’s electric pole should be in France when the thermal pole will be installed abroad. Each would have 10,000 employees by 2023, or about a fifth of the global workforce, the group said in mid-May.
The autonomous entity “Electric Vehicles and Software” includes the French engineering activities (part of the Technocentre in Guyancourt, the Renault Software Lab, the Lardy site (Essonne) and other sites under study in Île-de-France), industry (de three factories of its ElectriCity and that of Cléon, in the north), as well as the support functions associated with these activities.
Another entity would bring together its thermal and hybrid engine and transmission activities and technologies outside France with its Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Romanian, Brazilian and Chilean engine plants, as well as research centers in Spain, Romania, Turkey and Brazil.
The diamond brand is expected to present the conclusions of these reflections to investors in the fall of 2022.
Battle for metals
Regardless, global manufacturers are in fierce competition to secure supplies of the rare metals needed for battery production and the transition to electricity for their range of vehicles. For example, the American electric car manufacturer Tesla signed a mega contract for nickel from New Caledonia.
Last October, Renault itself announced a nickel supply contract with Finnish group Terrafame, following another contract, this time for lithium, with Germany’s Vulcan Energy.
Nevertheless, the European Union is likely to face metal supply problems from 2030 onwards. Countries are investing in these materials to replace hydrocarbons and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. This leads to a significant increase in needs.
Researchers from the KU Leuven, for Eurométaux, the European association of metal producers, made the calculations based on the industrial plans planned on the continent. For example, the EU will need 800,000 tons of lithium per year by 2050, 35 times more than today. That’s twice as much for nickel. For cobalt, estimates are +330%, +33% for aluminum, +35% for copper, +45% for silicon, from +10 to 15% for zinc.
” The good news “, According to the researchers, by 2050 40 to 75% of needs can be covered by recycling if Europe invests quickly in infrastructure, increases its mandatory recycling rates and tackles bottlenecks. But in the meantime she has “exposes itself to critical shortages over the next 15 years for lack of greater amounts of metals to support the start of its carbon-free energy system”, they point out.
Today, the EU is mainly dependent on imports of metals, for example from Russia for aluminium, nickel or copper. Over the next decade, China and Indonesia will dominate the boom in battery metals refining capacity, the report said, recommending that Europe contact socially and environmentally responsible suppliers.