A spinoff company from Chinese automaker Great Wall Motors claims to have the first production-ready, cobalt-free electric vehicle battery pack.

SVOLT is taking its new NMX battery, which contains no cobalt in its cathode, to the Shanghai motor show in the Ora Cherry Cat electric car.

Although the Cherry Cat is available with a choice of 66kWh and 84kWh batteries, only the latter is expected to feature cobalt-free batteries.

The batteries are more environmentally friendly thanks to the elimination of cobalt, and SVOLT says they’re around five per cent cheaper to produce.

The NMX battery should also be longer-lasting than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Having debuted in the Cherry Cat, the new batteries will be available for European production at the end of 2023.

Cobalt is difficult to mine, and is often sourced from countries with questionable labour practices.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich in cobalt, for example, but reports of child labour and dangerous working conditions are rife.

The precious metal is also heavy and expensive, but it’s commonly used in battery cathodes because it’s stable and allows cells to be more energy dense.

“SVOLT is the first company that has succeeded in bringing a cobalt-free high nickel cell chemistry to mass industrial production readiness,” said Kai-Uwe Wollenhaupt, president of SVOLT Europe and vice president of SVOLT Energy Technology.

“The team in China has now impressively demonstrated this by starting series production. Our high-performance and low-cost battery cells without cobalt are an important milestone on the road to sustainable electromobility.”

Cobalt-free batteries are a dream shared by plenty of brands. General Motors confirmed in 2020 it’s developing a cobalt-free lithium-ion battery, while Tesla has teamed up with China’s CATL to solve the cobalt problem.

Scott Collie

Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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