LG Chem to grow sales of low-cobalt batteries

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LG Chem to grow sales of low-cobalt batteries

LG Chem will increase the sales portion of its low-cobalt laptop batteries, from the current 10 percent, to 60 percent by 2020, the company said Monday.

Cobalt, a rare metal mostly buried in the Republic of Congo, is an important ingredient that increases the stability of lithium-ion batteries. However, battery makers have been striving to reduce cobalt use in battery manufacturing as the price of the metal shot up after demand increased for electric vehicles, tablets and other electronic devices.

According to the battery maker, cobalt prices increased from between $20,000 to $30,000 per ton in 2016 to $95,500 per ton in March this year.

LG Chem’s low-cobalt battery for laptops contains about 70 percent less of the metal than its predecessors. The company said it changed the formula to mix nickel, cobalt and manganese rather than using lithium cobalt oxide. While lithium cobalt oxide has been preferred for laptop batteries because of its high energy density, the LG affiliate said it applied its own technology to increase the energy density of nickel-cobalt-manganese batteries to a similar energy density level.

The company will first increase the sales portion of the low-cobalt batteries to 40 percent of its total laptop battery sales by next year, then push that rate up to 60 percent by the following year.

“Reducing cobalt content will help us offer batteries to our customers at a stable cost,” the company said in a statement. “Cobalt is the most difficult battery ingredient to secure.”

It also plans to develop high-nickel batteries with extremely low cobalt content by 2020.

Nickel content is directly linked to increasing a battery’s energy density, but too much nickel can make batteries unstable, which is why companies used cobalt to maintain balance between battery materials.

Battery makers are working on ways to increase nickel content while reducing cobalt and without compromising on battery stability.

“We will keep reducing cobalt content from batteries used in a wide range of electronic devices,” said Kim Jong-hyun, president of LG Chem’s battery division.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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