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Rise in Cobalt Price Will Increase Quantity Supplied, and Increase Search for Substitutes

(p. B14) . . . the dreaded shortage of cobalt, which is used in the cathode of the batteries, is a bit more complicated than industry projections would suggest.

. . .

Like cobalt, rare earths aren't so rare. China's move to restrict exports in 2010 exacerbated the perceived shortage, sending the prices of some varieties up 10-fold. Companies such as Molycorp, Rare Element Resources Ltd. and Quest Rare Mineral Ltd., which all had some connection to reserves, saw their shares surge based on supposedly rosy prospects. Since then, all have lost nearly all of their value.

Already, Mr. Heppel explains, other users of the metal, for example in the pigments industry, are searching for alternatives. Meanwhile, some batteries, such as a design by Tesla, use less of the metal. Lower-performing batteries use none at all, and those batteries' capabilities may improve with technological tweaks.

Supply will react too. Companies that operate copper and nickel mines, where cobalt is co-produced, are targeting expansion, and there are some pure-play cobalt mines being planned that could start producing shortly after the projected shortage hits.

For electric vehicles, this looks more like a speed bump than a cliff.

For the full commentary, see:

Spencer Jakab. "Will a Shortage of Cobalt Kill Electric-Vehicle Makers?" The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Nov. 30, 2017): B14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 28, 2017, and has the title "Will Tesla Die for Lack of Cobalt?.")

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