Archive | Metals and Manufacturing

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 →

Hunt for Next Electric-Car Commodity Quickens as Prices Soar – by Laura Millan Lombrana and Susanne Barton (Bloomberg News – August 23, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Niche metal cobalt is leaving bigger names like copper and lithium in its dust, triggering a hunt for new deposits from Idaho to Chile.

As one of the key components in the new breed of rechargeable batteries and with supply dominated by the Democratic Republic of Congo, prices have surged at four times the pace of major metals in the past year.

That’s caught the attention of governments, explorers and money managers, with annual demand set to increase 34 percent until 2026 as electric cars gain a bigger share of the global auto fleet, according to CRU Group.

Authorities in Chile, the top copper-producing nation, are embarking on a fact-finding mission with a view to restart cobalt production after a more than seven-decade hiatus. First Cobalt Corp. is merging with two other firms to create what it calls the world’s largest explorer of the mineral. Continue Reading →

Anglo American makes expensive bet on hydrogen fuel cell cars – by Barbara Lewis (Business Day – August 18, 2017)

https://www.businesslive.co.za/

London — Anglo American is placing a contrarian bet on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as it tries to squeeze more profit from its platinum reserves, but risks being left behind as rival miners look to cash in on battery-powered cars.

A push, particularly in Europe and China, for lower-emission transport, raises the prospect of weaker demand for platinum, whose biggest industrial use is in diesel vehicles. Other big miners are positioning themselves for the shift away from the combustion engine by betting on lithium and cobalt, both used in electric vehicle batteries.

Glencore signed a major deal last October to sell 20,000 tons of cobalt products, a hitherto niche material whose production it dominates, while Rio Tinto is sitting on a large deposit of lithium. As the world’s top supplier of platinum, Anglo American is left with little choice but to remain committed to the metal. Continue Reading →

Electrifying everything: After electric cars, what more will it take for batteries to change the face of energy? (The Economist – August 12, 2017)

https://www.economist.com/

No need for subsidies. Higher volumes and better chemistry are causing costs to plummet

ABOUT three-quarters of the way along one of the snaking production lines in Nissan’s Sunderland plant, a worker bolts fuel tanks into the chassis of countless Qashqais—the “urban crossover” SUVs which are the bulk of the factory’s output. But every so often something else passes along the line: an electric vehicle called a Leaf.

The fuel-tank bolter changes his rhythm to add a set of lithium-ion battery packs to the floor of the Leaf. His movements are so well choreographed with the swishing robotic arms around him that he makes the shift from the internal combustion engine to the battery-charged electric vehicle look almost seamless.

Until recently, it was a transition that many found unthinkable. The internal combustion engine has been the main way of powering vehicles on land and at sea for most of the past century. That is quite the head start. Though Leafs are the world’s biggest-selling electric vehicle, the Sunderland plant, Britain’s biggest car factory, only made 17,500 of them last year. It made 310,000 Qashqais. And the Qashqais, unlike the Leafs, were profitable. Nissan has so far lost money on every Leaf it has made. Continue Reading →

Why electric vehicles are closer than they appear – by David Olive (Toronto Star – August 12, 2017)

https://www.thestar.com/

We are in the early stages of a revolution in automobiles. The widespread adoption of all-electric vehicles and of driverless, or autonomous cars, is much closer on the horizon than it appears.

Until last year, the consensus forecast was for electric vehicles (EVs) to account for about one-third of vehicles on the road by 2040. But breakthroughs in the technology of EVs and the batteries that power them; stepped-up government advocacy of them; and automakers’ bet-the-company commitments to them have sharply altered that forecast. In May, researchers at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that as much as 90 per cent of vehicle production worldwide will be EVs by 2040.

Yes, that’s 27 years off. But the transition is well underway, and market saturation by EVs could come much sooner. This month, Tesla Inc. is rolling out its first mass-market EV, the Model 3. It’s generally thought in the industry that if the Model 3 succeeds, electrification of all vehicles is a sure thing. Continue Reading →

How Tesla’s Elon Musk became the master of fake business – by Lawrence Solomon (Financial Post – August 11, 2017)

http://business.financialpost.com/

“In 2015, Tesla sold 2,738 cars in Denmark; in 2016, after the government
said it would be phasing out subsidies, Tesla sold 176 cars, a drop of
94 per cent.”

The fastest-growing industries over the last two decades have been fake industries, those that thrive despite having few customers willing to buy their products except at fire-sale prices.

The fake industries all have the same angel investors — governments — and the same promoter touting their wares — again governments. These fake industries, the brainchild of subsidy entrepreneurs, also tend to be dazzlers, the better to wow their politician backers and the stock market speculators betting on cash flows of government subsidies.

Today’s fake-industry leader is Tesla, the electric car developed by subsidy entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also heads SolarCity and SpaceX, other government darlings. Musk’s genius is primarily in the subsidy-seeking realm — by 2015, U.S. governments alone had given his companies US$5 billion through direct grants, tax breaks, cut-rate loans, cashable environmental credits, tax credits and rebates to buyers of his products. Continue Reading →