Tanjung Bintang – BRIN Public Relations. For the first time, Indonesia is appointed to host the G20 Presidency. The theme of the G20 Indonesia Presidency, ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’, represents the spirit of inclusive, people-centered, environmentally friendly and sustainable growth. This also is the main commitment of Indonesia’s leadership in the G20.

This international event is set to focus on three aspects; health architecture, digital economic transformation, and energy transition. One product that reflects energy transition is an electric vehicle.

Indonesia also welcomes this trend of electric vehicle by promoting energy-efficient cars and accelerating the production of electric vehicle batteries. The government has issued stipulations in Presidential Regulation No. 55 of 2019 dated 12 August 2019 namely Acceleration of Battery Electric Vehicle Program for Road Transportation.

This regulation is a challenge as well as an opportunity for the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) in making government programs successful especially in the supply of nickel-based battery raw materials.

Based on data compiled by Investor Daily, the Ministry of Industry’s website states that the target number of electric cars in Indonesia will reach 400,000 units by 2025, then increase to 5.7 million units in 2035.

Electric cars are claimed to be environmentally friendly cars because they do not use fuel oil such as gasoline. Electric cars do not contribute to pollution and emissions that can damage the environment. Electric cars do not emit smoke-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere.

The number of electric vehicles in the global electric vehicle market in 2019 is estimated at 3,269,671 and this number will reach 26,951,318 units by 2030. The higher demand for electric vehicles will automatically make the electric vehicle industry one of the most popular. In a relatively short time, several developed countries such as the UK and France will completely ban gas-fueled vehicles by 2040. Meanwhile, Norway and India targeting every vehicle operated in their respective countries to be electric vehicles by 2025 and 2030.

Nickel for Electric Vehicle Batteries

The potential growth of electric vehicles provides an opportunity for the nickel mining sector, as the electric vehicles’ lithium batteries containing nickel will be able to hold more power for longer distances. Currently, nickel is one of hot topics in conversations around the world.

As an important component in the production of electric vehicle batteries, nickel is the driving force for change in energy use. Several studies made show that lithium batteries with higher nickel percentage have advantage of having greater energy storage.

Indonesia is one of the countries that plays an important role in the world nickel industry, both in terms of the amount of resources and production capacity. Based on data from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, nickel resources in the form of laterite nickel ore in Indonesia are obtained from mining in Pomalaa (Southeast Sulawesi), Soroako (South Sulawesi), Morowali (Central Sulawesi), Pakal, Konawe (Southeast Sulawesi), Tanjung Buli (North Maluku). etc.

BRIN’s Mineral Technology Research Center has a vision to create mineral processing and refining technology based on Indonesian mineral resources. This technology is low in investment, environmentally friendly, zero waste process and appropriate for application on Indonesian minerals. This technology is targeted to support mineral and coal production. This helps supply of advanced materials that are increasingly needed for various sectors and national priority programs, one of which is the Electric Vehicle Program.

“To produce nickel-based batteries, nickel-based compounds such as nickel sulfate, nickel chloride, nickel oxalate, and nickel oxide are needed. This compound is generated from the process of nickel extraction from laterite nickel ore, which is abundant in reserves in Indonesia,” explained Widi Astuti, a researcher as well as BRIN’s Acting Head of Mineral Technology Research Center Office.

Widi further explained that research on extraction of nickel from laterite nickel ore originating from mining in the Sulawesi and Halmahera regions has been carried out by BRIN’s Mineral Technology Research Center. “The extraction uses the hydrometallurgical method and produces a mixture of nickel and cobalt compounds with the nickel content of above 70%.” he explained.

“This nickel and cobalt mixture product has met the export standards set by the Ministry of State Enterprises. However, to be used as a raw material for cathode precursors for electric vehicle batteries, further extraction and purification process still need to be carried out for this mixture of nickel and cobalt compounds,” he explained.

The funding for the research was obtained from the National Innovation System Research Insentive (lInsinas) Program of the Ministry of Research and Technology/BRIN in 2020-2021. The research will continue in 2022 in order to obtain nickel products with high purity (>95%) which can be used as cathode precursors for electric vehicle batteries.

“The interesting thing from the research carried out is acquisition of a method to process and extract nickel from Indonesian laterite nickel ore. This method is simple and environmentally friendly, and very easy to apply in small and medium scale local mining industries,” he explained. “This is a new method with high novelty and has been patented. It is hoped that this method can be transferred to the local mining industry soon. The goal is to contribute to the mineral and coal downstream program launched the Government,” he concluded. (wa, flv, drs)