Mercedes-Benz to ethically source battery cells with cobalt and lithium

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 12 Nov 2020


Mercedes-Benz has announced a new dynamic to its future vehicle electrification programme. The German OEM’s electric offensive is a key component of the strategic focus ‘Ambition2039’ and a prerequisite on the way to carbon neutrality.

Responsibly mined and processed raw materials provide the foundation for a sustainable Mercedes-Benz electric vehicle fleet. Respect and protection of human rights and of the environment, all the way from the mine to the finished product, are decisive in this respect. Currently, the focus is particularly on the battery raw materials cobalt and lithium.

Mercedes-Benz is taking a comprehensive approach across the whole battery technology chain - from research and development to series production. The cell is at the very heart of the battery and mastering its chemistry is therefore critical.

“Mercedes-Benz’s clear development goal is to significantly increase the range of future batteries through advances in energy density, to advance the production maturity of future battery technologies, to significantly reduce charging times, and to further reduce the use of critical materials. In the coming generations of battery cells, the cobalt content is already being reduced to less than 10 percent. In the future, we want to use post-lithium-ion technologies with new material compositions to completely dispense with materials such as cobalt. The further optimization of recyclability and its implementation at Mercedes-Benz is also part of the holistic battery strategy,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG; responsible for Daimler Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars COO. 

Mercedes-Benz AG is taking a pioneering role with a comprehensive approach that promotes the socially acceptable and environmentally sound extraction of cobalt and lithium. The company insists on the use of strong standards for sustainability, making the industry-wide recognized ‘Standard for Responsible Mining’ of the ‘Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance’ (IRMA) one of the key criteria for supplier decisions and supplier contracts within raw material supply chains. The standard is in the early stage of adoption by the industry, a process Daimler seeks to accelerate. In the company’s contracts, partners will need to commit to working within their own supply chain to source exclusively from raw material suppliers who are audited in accordance with the IRMA mining standard. The supply chains will in the future also be regularly monitored.  

Countries of origin viewed as high-risk are deliberately not generally excluded as sources of supply. Instead, the approach taken here aims to improve the local situation for the people working there and to strengthen their rights. By doing so, Mercedes-Benz AG is following the recommendation of non-governmental organizations, governments and other relevant interest groups not to withdraw from high-risk countries.
In accordance with the principle of using leverage before withdrawing, the aim is to encourage the local economy while at the same time ensuring that higher standards in relation to the protection of human rights are established. 

"We have had the supply chains for our Mercedes-Benz electric vehicle fleet audited in line with OECD guidance, all the way back to the mine, even though we don’t source cobalt directly ourselves. Based on the insights gained, we will instruct our battery suppliers to only source cobalt and lithium from certified mining sites in the future. With this, we even go a step further and will ensure our sourcing is from mining sites compliant with the mining standard of the 'Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance'. This way, in addition to child labor and a range of other social concerns, environmental risks in the mining of raw materials can also be minimized. By doing so, we are paving the way for clean raw materials, from which other participants in the market can also benefit", said Markus Schafer. "Going forward, we will only work with suppliers who agree to comply with these requirements." 

"Our aspiration is very clear: we want our products to contain only raw materials that have been mined and produced without human rights violations. This is one of the core elements of our sustainable business strategy. This way, we are putting an important element of our Human Rights Respect System into practice and are shaping the path to electric drive systems in a sustainable way", said Renata Jungo Brüngger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz, responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs.

"If there are any indications of risk, we take another, closer look at the supply chain. This involves us going beyond the direct suppliers and creating transparency, if necessary all the way back to the mine."