A panel of Japanese government officials and representatives from major car manufacturers assembled and declared that by 2050, all new passenger vehicles put up for sale within the country must, by regulation, be either hybrid or electric.
Considering that Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are all Japanese companies and being major players in this discussion, this is big news for the fate of green transportation globally.
According to The Mainichi, Economy minister Hiroshige Seko stated during the meeting, “Japan would like to contribute to achieving zero emissions on a global scale by spreading electric vehicles worldwide. That’s a goal only Japan, home to the top level of the auto industry, can set.”
As the car industry makes the transition to electric vehicles, we will see other changes in the market economy. First, understandably, there will be a drop in fuel sales and a significant pushback from oil and gas companies.
Second, there will be a global race to procure a very different kind of non-renewable resource, cobalt. Cobalt, which is currently sourced almost exclusively from the Congo, is the critical ingredient that goes into manufacturing batteries for electric cars. While there seem to be smaller reserves of cobalt around Europe, companies are still flocking to the Congo for their cobalt needs as the ongoing civil conflict and political instability of the country makes it the cheapest source with even cheaper (often child) labor. The Swiss company Glencore is already trying to double its cobalt production in Congo within the next two years.
It’s clear that the race is on. Metal consultancy Roskill estimated that the demand for cobalt will rise from 118,000 tons to 310,000 tons by 2027.
In order to preemptively control the market, Japanese automakers have joined together in a pact with a plan to pool resources and authority in order to secure cobalt for their battery production in the long-run. According to The Japan Times, an inside government official said, “the joint body will try to secure supplies through signing long-term contracts with existing global suppliers or investing in new development projects with financial support coming from the government.”
Working together they are more likely to ensure continuous and sustainable mining that can meet future demands than if they are in competition with one another. Thankfully, built into their strategy is the prerequisite of “clean materials not associated with conflict minerals or child labor.”
Although the 2050 deadline outlined by this panel is somewhat conservative compared to other nations, for the environmentalist movement, it is still encouraging to see Japan’s newfound proclivity toward green transportation in action.
Undoubtedly, the world markets are changing in favor of electric vehicles and the stubborn nations that aren’t quick to the draw are going to miss their chance to secure a slice of the cobalt pie.