Archive | Metals and Manufacturing

How to Mine Cobalt Without Going to Congo – by Anna Hirtenstein (Bloomberg News – December 1, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Almost 9,000 miles from the dusty Congo savanna, miners have hit on an entirely new source of cobalt — the rare mineral at the heart of the electric-car boom. And not only can they take coffee breaks, when they take a break, they can grab a donut at Tim Hortons.

Scientists working for American Manganese Inc., located in the suburbs of Vancouver, have developed a way to produce enough of the bluish-gray metal to power all the electric cars on the road today without drilling into the ground: by recycling faulty batteries.

It’s one of many technologies that entrepreneurs are patenting to prepare for a time when electric cars outnumber polluting petrol engines, turning the entire automotive supply chain upside down in the process. Instead of radiators, spark plugs and fuel injectors, the industry will need cheap sources of cobalt, copper and lithium. Continue Reading →

VW Hunts for Critical Element Needed in Electric Cars – by Thomas Wilson and Christoph Rauwald (Bloomberg News – November 23, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Volkswagen AG is stepping up its hunt for long-term supplies of battery metals it will need to help power electric cars across its entire range.

The top automaker invited producers and traders of cobalt, one of this year’s best-performing metals, for talks at its German headquarters this week, people familiar with the matter said.

Buying the critical battery component might not be as simple as first thought — after issuing a tender in September, the firm has since relaxed demands for offers at a discounted fixed price, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Continue Reading →

[Norilsk] Metals Billionaire to Win Whether Electric Cars Boom or Bust – by Yuliya Fedorinova (Bloomberg News – November 21, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

There are two major reasons mining billionaire Vladimir Potanin is within a hair’s breadth of regaining his ranking as Russia’s richest tycoon this year.

One is higher prices for nickel used in batteries as metals traders bet electric vehicles are the future of transportation. The other is a jump in palladium on wagers that gasoline cars will be here for a long time yet.

They’ve boosted the value of Potanin’s 30 percent in MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, the top miner of both metals, lifting his net worth 12 percent this year to $19 billion. They also show how Nornickel, as it’s known, will gain from auto-industry changes even if optimism on electric cars is overdone. Continue Reading →

Darker side of electric cars in spotlight – by Angela Jameson (The National – November 19, 2017)

https://www.thenational.ae/

While EV emissions are good news for the planet the materials used to produce them are rasing concerns

Momentum is fast building behind electric vehicles as countries round the world move to reduce use of petrol and diesel for transport. This summer France and the UK said they would ban combustion engines by 2040 and China has said it is studying such a move.

Volvo, now a Swedish-Chinese company, says every car it launches from 2019 will be either fully or partly electric. Volvo’s announcement this year was greeted as the first serious challenge to Tesla, the Californian electric car maker, from mainstream marques.

Analysts at UBS expect global sales of electric vehicles in 2025 to reach 14.2 million units, or 13.7 per cent of the total, compared with under 1 million units, or less than 1 per cent, in 2017. Continue Reading →

The German Auto Industry’s Darkest Secrets – by Melanie Bergermann, Simon Book, Alexander Busch and Martin Seiwert (Handelsblatt Global – November 3, 2017)

https://global.handelsblatt.com/

German consumers purchasing a new electric car may be buying a few extras they didn’t reckon with – such as child labor, corruption and police brutality.

The young man shyly moves his T-shirt down over his belly, hiding the scars from the operation and the exit holes. His fellow South Africans call Mzoxolo Magidiwana, 24, “dead man walking” because he will never recover from the injuries he suffered when police opened fire on him and his fellow workers five years ago. Bullets tore into his stomach and his right arm no longer has any strength; nor can he walk properly anymore.

Mr. Magidiwana was one of the leaders of the 3,000 miners who went on strike on August 12, 2012 to protest poor working conditions and low pay at the Marikana platinum mine some 100 kilometers from Johannesburg in South Africa.

The workers were being paid just €400 ($464) per month for back breaking work. Below ground, they had to contend with constant accidents and dust that made them ill. Above ground, they were breathing the toxic fumes coming out of the platinum smelter. Continue Reading →

VW fails to secure long-term cobalt supply for electric vehicles – by Henry Sanderson and Neil Hume (Financial Times – October 15, 2017)

https://www.ft.com/

An attempt by one of the world’s biggest carmakers to secure long-term supplies of cobalt for its push into electric vehicles has been shunned by leading producers of the metal.

Volkswagen issued a tender last month seeking a minimum of five years of supply at a fixed price, according to people familiar with the process, but struggled to find any takers.

The carmaker put off miners by suggesting a price that was well below current market prices, which have jumped by more than 80 per cent this year, the people said. “They’re being arrogant because they’re automotive and they’re used to doing it,” one trader said. “They completely misjudged the contents of the tender. There’s no point negotiating — it’s not even a discussion point.” Continue Reading →

Why the ‘e’ in e-car actually stands for evil – by Lawrence Solomon (Financial Post – October 6, 2017)

http://business.financialpost.com/

Electric vehicles are for city folk. For most rural residents, their role is to give, give, give

Electric cars, the vehicles of choice for the virtue signallers among us, epitomize the confusions and the divisions in society. These vehicles aren’t environmental exemplars, as their touters claim. And they of course aren’t economic. They excel in one area above all: in exploiting rural regions and their inhabitants, mostly for the benefit of affluent urbanites.

Electric vehicles — now a trivial proportion of cars on the road — do benefit the urban environments in which they operate, by limiting harmful vehicular emissions such as NOx, SOx and ground-level ozone.

If electric vehicles ever obtained a broader market, that urban benefit would increase. But it would come at a much greater cost to the rural environment, which electric-vehicle proponents would seek to sacrifice to provide the cities with electricity for charging. Continue Reading →

Auto makers turn to lighter metals in bid to shed weight – by Greg Keenan (Globe and Mail – October 9, 2017)

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/

Battery-powered vehicles may eventually deliver a knockout blow to the internal-combustion engine, but auto makers and suppliers are developing counterpunches that will extend the life of the more than century-old technology that put the world on wheels.

The internal-combustion engine (ICE) is getting help from a tactic that seems simple on the surface, but is complex in practice – putting vehicles on a diet.

Materials that are lighter than steel, but were once too costly to replace steel for major applications in vehicles, are becoming more common. The use of aluminum, magnesium and carbon fibre is expected to grow to represent as much as 40 per cent of the body structure and closures in a vehicle by 2030, compared with 14 per cent currently. Continue Reading →

James Dyson to invest £2.5bn on ‘radically different’ electric car – by Gwyn Topham (The Guardian – September 26, 2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/

British inventor Sir James Dyson has announced plans to build an electric car that will be “radically different” from current models and go on sale in 2020. The billionaire who revolutionised the vacuum cleaner said 400 engineers in Wiltshire had been working since 2015 on the £2.5bn project.

No prototype has yet been built, but Dyson said the car’s electric motor was ready, while two different battery types were under development that he claimed were already more efficient than in existing electric cars.

Dyson said consumers would have to “wait and see” what the car would look like: “We don’t have an existing chassis … We’re starting from scratch. What we’re doing is quite radical.” However, he said the design was “all about the technology” and warned that it would be an expensive vehicle to purchase. While he did not name a price, he said: “Maybe the better figure is how much of a deposit they would be prepared to put down.” Continue Reading →

Electric vehicles trigger search for lithium and cobalt – by Chris Tomlinson (Houston Chronicle – September 27, 2017)

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/

Automakers this summer touted plans to offer more electric vehicles, with Mercedes-Benz announcing it will spend $1 billion to add a battery factory to its plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Ford is investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicle production, Volkswagen has promised 30 electrified models, and Volvo plans to go all electric or hybrid by 2019. Even Porsche will offer a battery-powered sports sedan called Mission E in 2020.

Automakers expect to sell 20 million all-electric vehicles in 2030, according to conservative estimates, prompting questions about where the raw materials will come from to make all of those batteries. Continue Reading →

BHP, world’s largest miner, says 2017 is ‘tipping point’ for electric cars – by Clara Ferreira-Marques and Gavin Maguire (Reuters U.S. – September 26, 2017)

http://www.reuters.com/

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – This year looks set to be the “tipping point” for electric cars, Arnoud Balhuizen, chief commercial officer at global miner BHP (BLT.L) said on Tuesday, with the impact for raw materials producers to be felt first in the metals market, and only later in oil.

“In September 2016 we published a blog and we set the question – could 2017 be the year of the electric vehicle revolution?” said Balhuizen, a company veteran who runs BHP’s commercial strategy, procurement and marketing from Singapore. “The answer is yes…2017 is the revolution year we have been speaking about. And copper is the metal of the future.”

Europe has begun a dramatic shift away from the internal combustion engine, although, globally, there are only roughly 1 million electric cars out of a global fleet of closer to 1.1 billion. BHP forecasts that could rise to 140 million vehicles by 2035, a forecast it says is on ‘the greener’ end. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: VW moves to secure cobalt supplies in shift to electric cars – by Pratima Desai (Reuters U.S. – September 22, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Reuters) – Germany’s Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) is moving to secure long-term supplies of cobalt, a vital component of rechargeable batteries, as the group accelerates its ambitious shift to electric cars. Cobalt industry sources told Reuters that VW, the world’s largest automaker, has asked producers to submit proposals on supplying the material for up to 10 years from 2019.

Volkswagen, which decided on the strategic shift to electric vehicles (EVs) after it was engulfed in the “dieselgate” scandal, plans to invest more than 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in zero-emission vehicles by 2030 to challenge pioneer Tesla in creating a mass market.

The company, which aims to make up to three million EVs a year by 2025, wants all the cobalt tender proposals submitted by the end of September. “The tender doesn’t actually tell you how much cobalt they want. They tell you how many EVs they want to make, you have to work out the cobalt content yourself,” one cobalt industry source said. Continue Reading →

Carmakers face electric reality as combustion engine outlook dims – by Laurence Frost and Edward Taylor (Reuters U.S. – September 11, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – European car bosses are beginning to address the realities of mass vehicle electrification, and its consequences for jobs and profit, their minds focused by government pledges to outlaw the combustion engine.

As the latest such announcement on Monday by China added momentum to a push for zero-emissions motoring, Daimler (DAIGn.DE), Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and PSA Group (PEUP.PA) gave details about their electric programs that could give policymakers some pause.

Planned electric Mercedes models will initially be just half as profitable as conventional alternatives, Daimler warned – forcing the group to find savings by outsourcing more component manufacturing, which may in turn threaten German jobs. Continue Reading →

Pop open a can to toast — the aluminum can – by Tim Philp (Brantford Expositor – September 7, 2017)

http://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/

We live in a highly engineered world. Virtually everything that we touch has been engineered to be the best it can be for its purpose. Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the ubiquitous pop can. These marvels of engineering science seem to be such simple devices.

We produce, by one estimate, about 200 billion of such cans every year. That is about 6,700 cans per second. If you placed these cans end to end, you would produce enough to circle the globe in a mere 17 hours. Aluminum cans use about 2.8 billion kilos of aluminum out of a total world production of about 10,680 billion kilograms. So, it is a small — but significant — fraction of the total production.

Aluminum is also one of the most recycled materials on Earth, which is a good thing because aluminum takes a great deal of energy to produce. In terms of energy requirements to mine aluminum, to make four cans requires the equivalent energy of filling one of those cans with gasoline. Continue Reading →

Palladium Rally Is About More Than Just Autos – by Shelley Goldberg (Bloomberg News – August 30, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Geopolitical risk has a role, too.

Palladium has been on a tear this year. Its spot price increased 45 percent year on year in the first half of 2017, and it now trades at a 16-year high. Although the rally has largely been attributed to the strong demand from the automotive industry, there’s a geopolitical risk premium baked into the price.

Approximately 67 percent of palladium produced is used in catalytic converters, which convert up to 90 percent of the harmful gases in automobile exhaust to less noxious substances.

Global auto sales, up 4 percent for the year, are driven by a global increase in SUV sales, the ongoing shift from diesel to gasoline engines in Europe (diesel engines alternatively use platinum), and tightening emission legislation. Continue Reading →