Cobalt hedging not mining the route for VW in EV drive, official says

BERLIN, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Volkswagen is not looking to secure long-term supplies of cobalt, a key ingredient of electric-car batteries, by investing in mines, a senior official at the automaker said.

Demand for cobalt is expected to soar as carmakers rush to embrace electric vehicles (EVs) in response to governments around the world cracking down on pollution.

Volkswagen (VW), which is struggling to draw a line under its 2015 emissions test-cheating scandal, plans to invest more than 20 billion euros ($23.6 billion) in battery-powered cars by 2030 to challenge Tesla in creating a mass market.

Asked whether VW would be prepared to invest in mines to safeguard future supplies of battery metals, Gerhard Praetorius, head of sustainability at VW group, told Reuters: "As far as I can see, options are being examined but not in this direction."

"Hedging by means of long-term (supplier) contracts is really the way to control such new issues (of securing materials supplies)," Praetorius said.

Asked what VW does to ensure that its cobalt supplies do not come from child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Praetorius said:

"We are now in the midst of starting a process by which we can retrace very well" where the cobalt comes from. He gave no details.

Two months ago, Reuters reported that the world's largest automaker had asked producers to submit proposals on supplying cobalt for up to 10 years from 2019.

VW, which aims to make up to three million EVs a year by 2025, wanted all the cobalt tender proposals submitted by the end of September, the sources had said.

Praetorius declined to comment on procurement issues. ($1 = 0.8494 euros)

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; editing by Alexander Smith).