Car makers join responsible sourcing blockchain network

Read time 2min 30sec

Are green cars really green? It depends on how far down the supply chain you look - a global collaboration of car manufacturers is growing to trace responsible mineral mining and help stop child labour.

Electric cars don’t spew pollution out of exhaust pipes or burn fossil fuels, but if the electricity that powers them comes from a coal-burning power plant, those pointsare a bit moot.

That’s only half of the issue. The minerals necessary for the manufacture of components in electric cars - cobalt, tungsten, lithium, tantalum, tin and gold - are mined in countries like Nigeria, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Amnesty International says human rights abuses continue. Some miners, including child labourers, make a dollar a day.

So it’s not so green in the green lane.

There are only about a thousand electric vehicles on our roads, according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), with talk of local production in the future.

With the rise of electric cars, andthe motor industry predicting over 100 million zero-emission cars on the world’s roads by 2030, manufacturers are recognising their responsibility in the supply chain.

The Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN) is “an industry collaboration using blockchain technology to support sustainable, responsible sourcing and production practices from mine to market,” with participants such as Ford, Volvo and the entire Volkswagen Group - so, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Bentley, Porsche, Skoda, Seat…

The latest member to join this effort to trace conflict minerals is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and all its brands like Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Jeep, Lancia, Abarth and Maserati. FCA is currently in merger talks with the PSA Group, and that would additionally bring on board more car manufacturers including Peugeot, Citroen and Opel.

Built on the IBM Blockchain Platform and assured by RCS Global Group, the RSBN traces and maps raw materials and provides insight into small-scale mines. The open blockchain traces from source to end product and provides control over the social and environmental impact of electric vehicle manufacturing. 

“The RSBN is expanding rapidly, connecting actors throughout the battery supply chain and beyond, all of whom have a focus on proving good practice in responsible sourcing and production,” said Dr Nicholas Garrett, CEO, RCS Global Group.

Auditing covers more than 30 designated high-risk raw materials including cobalt, copper, nickel and lithium, the latter originally having been commercialised for laptop batteries before development progressed into electric cars.

One of the world’s largest battery producers, South Korea’s LG Chem (and another RSBN member), claims the latest lithium-manganese batteries can last up to 40 years. 

RSBN is set to be commercially operational by Q2 2020.

See also