Tesla warning – Will we see a ‘key metals’ shortage?
Tesla says we could soon see a serious shortage of the key metals used to make electric vehicles, and it’s all down to a lack of investment in mining, which isn’t keeping up with fast-increasing demand. It looks like essential nickel, copper and lithium could all be in short supply in the coming years as electric vehicles become more popular. And that means the metals’ prices could soar.
Electric vehicles need more of these metals than regular vehicles. In fact an electric vehicle demands twice as much copper. At the time Tesla is attempting to use less cobalt, a metal that mostly comes from the warring Democratic Republic of Congo. Worse still, production there comes with serious human rights issues. If using less cobalt works out okay, it’ll mean using more nickel.
Right now China currently controls about 66% of the world’s battery electric manufacturing capacity, and they’re due to hit 73% by 2021. At the moment the USA is only in control of around 13% of global lithium-ion battery-making capacity. No wonder US politicians are keen to ‘ease’ permitting requirements on new mines.
Aluminium extrusion suppliers – The demand for aluminium products booms
As reported by the Financial Times this time last year the sixty-five million tonne a year aluminium market was in utter chaos after the US placed sanctions on Rusal, the second-biggest producer outside of China, and its owner Oleg Deripaska. Now, just a year down the line, Rusal is free of US sanctions and investors are feeling extremely optimistic.
Although we’ve seen record-breaking Chinese exports in January and March 2019, at a recent conference in London Tian Yong, the senior VP of Chinalco, the country’s biggest producer, said China’s dramatic environmental reforms had successfully cut capacity and encouraged demand. Right now it looks like there’s about 5 million tonnes of capacity offline in China, and it doesn’t look like it’ll start operating again, at least for the foreseeable future. In fact, demand in China alone could outstrip supply through 2019, making export arbitrages much less attractive than they were.
As steel suppliers in the UK we care about British Steel
The EU’s emissions trading system lets industrial polluters either use carbon credits to pay for the last year’s emissions or trade them for cash. Every permit allows a firm to emit one ton of CO2. As reported by the BBC, British Steel has been loaned £100m by the government to pay its 2018 EU carbon bill, thus avoiding a massive fine. The government money has been spent on paying off the company’s carbon credits, but apparently, British Steel will pay the cash back. It happened because British Steel, like many others, has been affected by a European Union decision to suspend British business’ access to carbon permits until Brexit is sorted out.
Global steel leader Outokumpu
Outokumpu, the stainless steel production giant, has significantly increased production of the metal thanks to replacing two lasers with one bespoke Kimla laser cutter. They’ve been using three CO2 laser machines for the last 15 years, but now, with the help of MBA Engineering, a supplier of leading laser cutting and metal fabrication equipment, they have updated their metal cutting tech. They’ve replaced two of the three machines with just one, having been impressed by a visit to the Kimla facility in Poland. Now they can increase production, cut running costs and also free up floor space thanks to just one bespoke, fully automated Kimla fibre laser cutting machine.
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