Tesla Model 3 batteries have four times less cobalt than Volkswagen’s batteries

The batteries used in the Tesla Model 3 contain less than a quarter of the amount of cobalt of the batteries that Volkswagen will use in its upcoming electric models. That says the head of a battery research department at Volkswagen.

Frank Blome, the head of the Center of Excellence für Batteriezellen at Volkswagen, told the German business newspaper Wirtschaftswoche that the batteries that Volkswagen will use in the ID3 contain between 12 and 14 percent cobalt. With the Tesla Model 3, the cathodes of the batteries would contain no more than 2.8 percent cobalt. The ID3 was previously known as the ID Neo and is one of the new electric cars that Volkswagen will release.

Elon Musk confirmed last year that in the batteries of the Tesla Model 3 less than three percent cobalt is used and that the next generation of Teslas will no longer use cobalt at all. Volkswagen is still quite behind in this area, although Blome says that Volkswagen is also working to reduce the cobalt content in the battery cells. The generation of electric cars from Volkswagen that comes after the ID series should use half less cobalt. According to Blome, prototypes are already being tested and this would show that the quality standards are met.

Even though manufacturers are currently continuing to reduce the use of cobalt, the metal is still quite important for battery production, because it is very stable and can therefore maintain the layered structure of cathodes well. This leads to a good service life, a short charging time and a high energy potential of the battery.

Cobalt mainly comes from the African country of Congo. The country is responsible for about 60 percent of the total world production of the metal, which is mainly extracted as a by-product of copper smelting. Certainly in the case of non-industrial mines, this is often accompanied by appalling conditions, child labor and the necessary environmental pollution. Partly due to these circumstances, BMW recently announced that it will stop buying cobalt from Congo from 2020 or 2021.

A factory in Congo processes raw cobalt before shipping it to China. ©ANP / Samir Tounsi.