Eoin Treacy's view -
The world’s three largest platinum producers Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum and Lonmin are all investing in projects related to fuel cell technologies, which generate electricity that can power vehicles by combining hydrogen and oxygen over a platinum catalyst.
But analysts doubt fuel cell vehicles will rival the growth of their electric counterparts, mostly because battery recharging stations are less costly and already more widespread than hydrogen refuelling stations.
“As out of the two new technologies only fuel cells use platinum, I guess the miners think they have no choice,” Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner said. “But people are buying electric cars…and that’s not the case for fuel cells.”
Amplats, which has invested about $35 million in the last five years in companies developing new uses for platinum, mostly through fuel cell technology, is mindful of the stakes.
“I don’t want Anglo American Platinum, or any of our partners or customers to be a Kodak,” Amplats Chief Executive Chris Griffith said last week, referring to the once mighty photography pioneer that was slow to transition to digital photography.
Platinum miners are not the only companies making big bets on hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota’s decision to release its Mirai fuel cell vehicle later this year and to open its patents to developers highlights their efforts to pioneer new technologies. After all it was Toyota’s Prius that was the first mass market hybrid vehicle.
Nevertheless, electric cars are gaining increasing traction as solar cell efficiency increases. There is also the potential for wind turbines to be smaller and less noisy. With the advent of home batteries the outlook for electric vehicles is looking even more promising.
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