Apple could cut out the middlemen and secure its own supply of cobalt for device batteries as fears of a shortage caused by electric vehicles grow, Bloomberg reported.
The iPhone vendor is reportedly in talks to buy “several thousand” tonnes of cobalt per year directly from mines for a period of at least five years. Bloomberg sources noted a deal isn’t certain, but an agreement would mark a departure from the standard arrangement of leaving cobalt sourcing to battery suppliers.
As a key element in Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, demand for cobalt is soaring in line with the rise of electric vehicles. While a smartphone battery contains somewhere between 5 grammes and 10 grammes of cobalt, the battery for an electric car requires around 15,000 grammes. Figures from cobalt procurement specialist Darton Commodities cited by Bloomberg show 55,400 tonnes of cobalt were used in Li-ion batteries in 2017: by 2030, the figure is forecast to jump to 324,300 tonnes as car companies push for more electric options.
In its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report, Apple identified cobalt as a priority for its recycling efforts due to environmental, social, and supply risk factors. At the time, the company reported it was experimenting with ways to recover cobalt from old iPhone batteries for use in new power packs.
Apple noted its recycling system could potentially recover 550kg of cobalt from every 100,000 iPhone 6 devices processed.