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Heraeus Precious Appraisal

  • Edition 44 - 9 December 2019

Can expanding hydrogen mobility fuel platinum's future?

The rise of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) is anticipated to boost platinum demand. Fuel cell vehicles rely on a hydrogen fuel cell stack which uses platinum catalysts in its electrodes.

In the short term, increased thrifting will outweigh sales growth to reduce platinum demand from fuel cells. The platinum content of a car’s fuel cell stack has decreased from 30-80 g in early vehicles to 10 g in the second generation Toyota Mirai, which enters production in 2020. With reduced platinum content and improving economies of scale, price parity to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is achievable.

Adoption of fuel cells in commercial vehicles may offset the slow growth of passenger cars. Unlike BEVs, FCEVs have a long range and can be refuelled quickly, making them suitable as commercial vehicles. Hyundai, Cummins and Nikola have all revealed details of heavy-duty fuel cell trucks, some of which have entered production this year. The platinum content of these trucks is currently more than double that of a passenger car. Growing adoption of fuel cells for non-road vehicles, such as trains, forklifts and mining equipment, provides further demand upside.

The hydrogen vision is becoming a reality in Asia. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Committee has partnered with Toyota to provide fuel cell transport for the Olympic Games, including 500 Mirai cars and 100 Sora buses. The 6,000 unit Olympic village will also be powered by fuel cells. Japan aims to have 40,000 FCEVs on the road by 2020, supported by generous government subsidies and a rapidly expanding infrastructure network. South Korea also has strong incentives, and is aiming for 81,000 FCEVs and 310 fuelling stations by 2022.

Due in part to the declining popularity of diesel cars, the platinum price is yet to respond to growing demand from the fuel cell market, but future growth is supported by major international and national government legislation. Demand from the fuel cell market has the potential to exceed 1 moz in the long term.

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Heraeus Precious Metals - Setting the PGM agenda for the years ahead

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