Batteries

Bill Gates fund backs new California cobalt venture

In this image, a yellow battery drips yellow circles on top of a blue background.
Photo: David Santaolalla/EyeEm via Getty Images

Quartz reports Tuesday that a California startup called Kobold, which has developed advanced methods to chase down supplies of cobalt, has won backing from the Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the VC powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz.

Why it matters: Cobalt is a critical component in batteries needed for smartphones and the growth of EVs, so demand is growing.

Expert Voices

Lower graphite production in China could mean higher battery prices

A graphite worker walks across the Jin Yang graphite factory in the town of Mashan, China on May 28, 2016.
A graphite worker walks across the Jin Yang graphite factory in the town of Mashan, China, on May 28, 2016. Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

China has steadily been forcing producers of graphite — a material commonly used in smartphone and laptop batteries — to close in response to rising pollution, as mining companies fail to improve the conditions of local land and water resources. 

Why it matters: Batteries account for roughly 30% of the global demand for graphite, and China produces 70% of the world's graphite supply. As demand for the material continues to grow, battery prices may rise, which would impede progress toward the $100 per kilowatt hour lithium-ion target that many companies, including Tesla and BMW, are looking to achieve.

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