Roadster’s ‘first cobalt’ under fire

Written by Amy Karam, CNN

With more than a dozen hours to go before Tesla officially unveils its new Roadster, here’s what you need to know about cobalt — the electrified metal key to Elon Musk’s plan to revolutionize the automobile industry.

Cobalt.

Peppered as the link between two metals: Two cobalt oxides bonded together to form — you guessed it — cobalt.

Want to invest in cobalt? There’s always cobalt. Or maybe you want to make it. In which case there’s cobalt.

Scaling up

As a commercial mineral, cobalt’s use has always been exponential: its primary production sector has tripled in the last five years alone.

A blue plated Tesla ‘Roadster’ heads for its launch Wednesday. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As cobalt use has soared, so has attention to the industry.

Before the last few years, most studies and research on the relationship between cobalt and energy were theoretical or speculative. Little was known about whether the metal actually existed in large quantities or helped to mitigate the effects of heavy metals.

As the market responded to rapid growth in its supply, concern about its role in environmental pollution and political instability has grown. It has been the subject of food analyses, research and articles.

One spark

The answer to one of these questions arrived on June 1, when Musk tweeted that the Roadster would contain at least 24 koz. of cobalt. The tweet was pure Musk — brand awareness and hype reign.

No Cobalt! pic.twitter.com/GmAbXONPvm — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2018

Cobalt isn’t just a commodity; it is a fossil fuel, says Mohan Maheswaran, Executive Director at Sek-Omaya Global – Sustainability Thought Processes.

“I think over the last 100 years we’ve really seen that the main concern, not just with climate change, but with electric vehicle and switchover to electrified cars for the passenger vehicles, has been, what’s this? What’s the chemistry behind it?” Maheswaran says.

“Over the last few years and particularly over the last decade, we’ve seen a genuine surge in investments around (the extraction of) cobalt. You know there’s strong demand for cobalt and we’ve seen the production volumes going up.”

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