Archive | Metals and Manufacturing

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 →

BHP turns to electric car batteries to recharge its nickel business – by James Regan (Reuters U.S. – August 9, 2017)

http://www.reuters.com/

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The rise of electric vehicles is driving the world’s biggest mining house, BHP, to switch gears and invest heavily in its long-suffering nickel business.

Eduard Haegel, division chief of BHP Nickel West, said the company planned to spend more than $43 million building a nickel processing plant near Perth, Australia as part of a broader plan to reposition the business around batteries.

Haegel told the “Diggers and Dealers” conference in Australia he expected demand for batteries used to power electric cars to account for about 90 percent of Nickel West’s output within five or six years, replacing traditional markets, such as stainless steel makers. Continue Reading →

Electric-Car Revolution Shakes Up the Biggest Metals Markets – by Mark Burton and Eddie Van Der Walt (Bloomberg News – August 2, 2017)

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The revolution in electric vehicles set to upturn industries from energy to infrastructure is also creating winners and losers within the world’s biggest metals markets.

While some of the largest diversified miners like Glencore Plc argue fossil fuels such as coal and oil still play a crucial role supplying energy needs, they’ll also benefit the most from a move to electric cars, requiring more cobalt, lithium, copper, aluminum and nickel.

The outlook for greener transportation got a boost this year as the U.K. joined France and Norway in saying it would ban fossil-fuel car sales in coming decades. That’s as Volvo AB announced plans to abandon the combustion engine and Tesla Inc. unveiled its latest, cheaper Model 3. Such vehicles will outsell their petroleum-driven equivalents within two decades, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates. Continue Reading →

More Aluminum Cars? Not So Fast – by Chester Dawson (Wall Street Journal – July 31, 2017)

https://www.wsj.com/

New study forecasts that auto makers’ use of aluminum will continue to grow, but pace will slow as vehicles incorporate a patchwork of materials

Aluminum may not be the new steel, according to a new study, as auto makers’ use of a single predominant lightweight material such as aluminum in vehicles like Ford Motor Co.’s F-150 pickup is giving way to a patchwork of materials replacing heavier sheet metal.

Long seen as a lighter but far more expensive alternative to steel for automotive manufacturers, aluminum has enjoyed a surge as engineers scramble to shave weight amid tighter emissions standards. A new study to be issued Monday by Ducker Worldwide says the use of aluminum in vehicles is projected to grow 42% over the next decade, but at a slower pace than in previous forecasts.

The average vehicle sold today weighs nearly 4,000 pounds and is made of rubber, plastic, steel, aluminum, upholstery and other materials. Auto makers have worked to make every component—from body panels and engines to brackets and windshields—lighter, often by substituting materials that can add costs but improve miles per gallon. Continue Reading →

Carmakers’ electric dreams depend on supplies of rare minerals – by Karl West (The Guardian – July 29, 2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/

With mining of cobalt and other elements politically and ethically charged, the hunt for alternatives is on

Britain last week joined France in pledging to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in an attempt to cut toxic vehicle emissions. The move to battery-powered vehicles has been a long time coming.

Environmental campaigners claim that charging cars and vans from the grid, like a laptop, is sure to be cleaner than petrol or diesel power. The government agrees and says it will invest more than £800m in driverless and clean technology, and a further £246m in battery technology research.

BMW plans to build a fully electric version of the Mini at Cowley in Oxford from 2019. Volvo announced earlier this month that from the same year, all its new models will have an electric motor. Continue Reading →

Clean electric cars are built on pollution in Congo – by David Pilling (Financial Times – July 26, 2017)

https://www.ft.com/

Behind every clean electric car there is cobalt. And behind cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cobalt is a critical element in lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars. Such batteries already consume 42 per cent of the metal and demand will soar as the world switches from petrol and diesel cars to electric ones.

This week, Britain followed France in declaring a ban on such vehicles from 2040. Soon, almost anyone in the rich world will be able to drive safe in the knowledge that they’re being kinder and gentler to the planet.

Did I mention the Democratic Republic of Congo? Some 60 per cent of the world’s cobalt comes from this central African country, one the size of western Europe and with gargantuan problems to match. Some industry analysts are predicting a 30-fold increase in cobalt demand by 2030, much of which will come from Congo. Continue Reading →

Electric vehicles could be a game changer for high-grade nickel producers – by Tess Ingram (Australian Financial Review – July 25, 2017)

http://www.afr.com/business/

Strong interest in a new battery-grade nickel product Western Areas plans to produce reinforces suggestions the growing electric vehicles sector could deliver a “renaissance” for the flagging nickel market, Western Areas managing director Dan Lougher says.

Western Areas started work in the June quarter on its mill recovery enhancement project, which plans to produce a high-grade nickel concentrate product from its Forrestania nickel operations in Western Australia from the March quarter of 2018.

While the project will produce only about 1400 tonnes of the 45 to 50 per cent nickel concentrate, compared to Western Areas’ annual nickel production of about 25,000 tonnes, Mr Lougher said the Perth-based miner had already fielded interest in the product from multiple global battery market players. Continue Reading →

Spongy zinc battery may beat lithium-ion on safety, price, recycling – by James Dunn (North Bay Business Journal – July 24, 2017)

http://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/

If nearly 500,000 deposits of $1,000 each on the new Tesla Model 3 indicate bridled demand, the electric cars have a sure future. Tesla plans to start delivery of the $35,000 vehicles on July 28, when it will release the first 30. Palo Alto-based Tesla aims to crank out about three cars a day in August, boost output to 1,500 in September and build to a rate of 20,000 a month by the end of 2017.

Tesla electric cars rely on lithium-ion batteries. The company is building a gargantuan battery factory in Nevada — some 5.8 million square feet — slated for completion in 2020. The enormous production capacity could drive down battery costs by about 30 percent, Tesla said, from batteries now produced by Panasonic in Japan.

But a Marin-based aerospace engineer sees problems with lithium-ion technology: potential for explosions as occurred in Samsung phones in 2016; high cost; and poor recyclability. He suggests zinc, the metal used to stop corrosion in galvanized steel, as an alternative. Continue Reading →

Op-Ed Were the raw materials in your iPhone mined by children in inhumane conditions? – by Brian Merchant (Los Angeles Times – July 23, 2017)

http://www.latimes.com/

Brian Merchant, an editor at Motherboard, is the author of “The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone.”

Last year, I visited the sprawling mines of Cerro Rico, the “rich hill” that looms over Potosi, Bolivia. Four centuries ago, it supplied the silver that bankrolled the Spanish empire. Today, miners who work in the same tunnels as 16th century conscripted Incan laborers are providing tin for Apple products like the iPhone. It’s a powerful paradox — our most cutting-edge consumer devices are made from raw material obtained by methods barely advanced beyond colonial times.

Cerro Rico couldn’t be farther from Silicon Valley. Cigarette-scarred devil idols mark the mine entrances. Its support beams are split and cracked, and the air in the tunnels is thick with suffocating silica dust. According to a BBC report, the average lifespan of a Cerro Rico miner is 40 years. Worse, a UNICEF report found that children as young as 6 years old have worked in its tunnels.

Tin isn’t the only ingredient in an iPhone that’s obtained in ways that don’t quite match Apple’s “Supplier Code of Conduct,” which states that “all workers in our supply chain deserve a fair and ethical workplace.” Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Lithium supply pipeline is filling but will it be enough? – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – July 19, 2017)

http://uk.reuters.com/

LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – The electric vehicle revolution is gathering momentum. Barely a week goes by without a fresh, starting revelation, whether it be Sweden’s Volvo promising to phase out traditional internal combustion engines from 2019 or France aiming to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

And, of course, leading the electric charge is the poster child of the green technology revolution, Tesla, which is gearing up to roll out its Model 3, the long-awaited break-out from niche to mass market.

The ambition is to be producing 20,000 per month by the end of the year. Whether reality matches such lofty goals remains to be seen. Tesla delivered around 47,000 vehicles in the first half of the year, at the lower end of its own forecasts, due to a “severe shortfall” of battery packs. Continue Reading →

No cobalt, no Tesla? – by Sebastien Gandon (Tech Crunch – January 1, 2017)

https://techcrunch.com/

The battery industry currently uses 42 percent of global cobalt production, a critical metal for Lithium-ion cells. The remaining 58 percent is used in diverse industrial and military applications (super alloys, catalysts, magnets, pigments…) that rely exclusively on the material.

Approximately 97 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt comes as a by-product of nickel or copper (mostly out of Africa). Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Lundin agreed to sell to Chinese players their respective stakes in the Tenke Fungurume mine, one of the largest known cobalt sources, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Tesla has stated that the cobalt it needs will be sourced exclusively in North America, but the math doesn’t seem to add up.

Is Tesla doomed? Not necessarily… Continue Reading →

Tesla wades into Australia’s battle over energy future – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – July 10, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – There is a lot more riding on Tesla Inc’s deal to install the world’s largest grid-scale electric battery in Australia than whether Elon Musk can meet his bold commitment to finish within the 100-day deadline.

Under an agreement made public on July 7, Tesla must deliver the 100 megawatt (MW) battery within 100 days of the contract being signed, or the government of South Australia state won’t have to pay the electric car, clean energy and space exploration company.

On the surface, this is a deal aimed at providing back-up electricity to South Australia, a state that has been plagued by blackouts since it closed coal-fired power plants and moved to being powered mainly by renewables such as wind, and to a grid connection to neighboring Victoria state. Continue Reading →

Tesla to build titanic battery facility – by Dennis Normile (Science Magazine – July 7, 2017)

http://www.sciencemag.org/

Tesla announced today that it will build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery system to store electricity in Australia. The 100-megawatt installation—more than three times as powerful as the biggest existing battery system—will be paired with the Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, operated by the French renewable energy company Neoen, in a deal with the state of South Australia. The Tesla battery should smooth out the variability inherent in sustainable power generation schemes.

“Cost-effective storage of electrical energy is the only problem holding us back from getting all of our power from wind and solar,” says Ian Lowe, an energy policy specialist at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia, near Brisbane.

The Tesla system, he says, will “demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale storage.” It might also win over skeptics who doubt that renewables can match the dependability of conventional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, says Geoffrey James, a renewable energy engineer at University of Technology Sydney. Continue Reading →