Renault secures its cobalt supplies in Morocco

It is one of the essential components of electric batteries that the entire sector is fighting for due to the supply difficulties of recent months: cobalt. To overcome 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 value has not been communicated, this contract provides for the delivery of 5,000 tonnes of cobalt sulfate 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 energy, but also through recycling materials from end-of-life batteries. This contract will enable Renault to achieve its goal of reducing the carbon footprint of its batteries, set at 20% by 2025 and 35% by 2030 compared to 2020.

The French group guarantees “Thus an offer closer to our electric battery manufacturing ecosystem in Europe and low carbon”, greeted the purchasing director of the Renault-Nissan alliance, Gianluca De Ficchy.

This agreement also complements Renault’s investments in Morocco, which are expected to reach a total of €2.5 billion in 2025, for a total target of €3 billion.

An electric pole in the boxes

Renault, which seeks to accelerate the electrification of its range, has been working in parallel since February to create a dedicated entity, separate from its thermal activities, “in order to reinforce its 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 electrical activities gathered under the name “Model e”.

Renault’s electrical hub must be located in France when its thermal hub is installed abroad. Each would have 10,000 employees by 2023, or about a fifth of its worldwide workforce, the group said in mid-May.

Renault wants to spin off its electrical activities to better value them on the stock market

The autonomous entity “Electric Vehicles and Software” would include French engineering activities (part of the Technocentre in Guyancourt, the Renault Software Lab, the Lardy site (Essonne) and other sites under study on the Île-de-France), industry (the three factories in its ElectriCity and in Cléon, to the north), as well as the support functions linked to these activities.

Another entity would bring together its activities and technologies for engines and thermal and hybrid drives based outside France, with its Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Romanian, Brazilian, Chilean engine factories, 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 of metals

In any case, global manufacturers are engaged in fierce competition to secure their supplies of rare metals needed to manufacture batteries and transition to electricity for their range of vehicles. American electric car maker Tesla, for example, has signed a mega nickel contract from New Caledonia.

Last October, Renault itself announced a nickel supply contract with the Finnish group Terrafame, after another contract, this time for lithium, with the German Vulcan Energy.

However, the European Union will face metal supply problems from 2030 onwards. Countries are betting on these materials to replace hydrocarbons and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. This leads to a considerable increase in needs.

Researchers from the KU Leuven University of Eurométaux, the European association of metal producers, made the calculations based on industrial plans planned for the continent. Thus, by 2050, the EU will need 800,000 tonnes of lithium per year, ie 35 times more than today. That’s twice as much nickel. As for cobalt, estimates have +330%, +33% for aluminum, +35% for copper, +45% for silicon, from +10 to 15% for zinc.

“The good news”, according to the researchers, is that by 2050, 40-75% of needs could be covered by recycling, if Europe quickly invests in infrastructure, increases its mandatory recycling rates and tackles bottlenecks. But meanwhile she “exposes itself to critical shortages over the next 15 years for lack of greater quantities of metals to support the start of its carbon-free energy system”, they point.

Today, the EU depends mainly on imports of metals, for example from Russia for aluminum, nickel or copper. Over the next decade, China and Indonesia will dominate the boom in battery metal refining capacity, the report says, recommending that Europe partner with socially and environmentally responsible suppliers.

(with AFP)