Another Automaker Joins Fight Against Blood Batteries

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FCA wants everyone to know where it sources rare earth minerals.

There's a harsh truth everyone must contend with when it comes to our smartphones, laptops, and electrified vehicles: the sourcing of rear earth minerals needed for their lithium-ion batteries. Cobalt, mica, tin, and gold are among the conflict materials typically sourced from poor African nations, often by means of exploitation. Labor conditions are often horrific and child soldiers are often involved.

FCA, however, wants to be sure it is supporting sustainable, responsible sourcing for years to come. The Michigan-based automaker has just announced that it has joined the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN), an industry collaboration that uses blockchain to trace the sources of those rare earth minerals. The RSBN is officially on track to be "commercially operational" by next spring.

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FCA plans to work directly with the organization to launch a global audit and trace of cobalt, among other minerals, in its supply chain. "Our commitment to the responsible procurement of raw materials is vital to the integrity and sustainability of our supply chain, especially as our electrification strategy ramps up," said Carl Smiley, FCA's Chief Purchasing and Supply Chain Officer. "Embarking on this journey together with technology and industry leaders will propel our ability to have visibility into artisanal and small-scale mines, allowing us to better manage the social and environmental impacts of our business."

This new IBM Blockchain Platform, which has been backed by the RCS Global Group, whose chief goal is traceable and responsible sourcing. FCA intends to launch over 30 electrified vehicles by 2022, meaning now's the time to line up suppliers. Already FCA sells a few hybrid models that require lithium-ion batteries, such as the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. A recent report claimed the 2020 Dodge Durango will offer a mild-hybrid version similar to what's already available for the Ram 1500.

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By creating this level of transparency in advance, FCA is in a better position to prove its suppliers are sourcing raw materials through ethical practices. Tesla, for example, recently announced it plans to eliminate cobalt from its next-generation batteries entirely. Researchers are in the process of examining ways to create a cobalt-free battery. FCA is not the only automaker to join the RSBN. Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen Group, and Volvo are also participants.

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