Korean car manufacturers Hyundai have announced a new £5.31 billion programme to massively increase production of hydrogen fuel cells from 3,000 units to 700,000 a year by 2030.
Platinum has fallen out of favour in recent years following the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015. While palladium is used primarily in catalytic converters for petrol vehicles, platinum is primarily used with diesels, and in the wake of the diesel emission figures being manipulated many people turned away from what were actually more pollutive vehicles – hitting platinum demand.
The resurgence of platinum demand lies with cars that will run on hydrogen fuel cells. These vehicles only emit water vapour, making their emissions harmless, but they require an ounce of platinum per cell – a big increase from 2 to 4 grams that catalytic converters currently need. Even if scientists and engineers were able to halve that amount, a half ounce / 15g of platinum would still see a big enough demand surge to push the price back up towards that of gold and palladium.
Platinum is currently sitting at £623.35, having lost £32.98 an ounce compared to last month. At its lowest it hit £614 per ounce, but in August it went as low as £599 per ounce. In comparison, platinum peaked at £902 per ounce in August 2016, and even at the start of this year it was at £732 per ounce.
Palladium’s price growth this year has been remarkable, and a lot of it can be attributed to platinum’s decline, but the rapid price increase brought some interest back to platinum, with some manufacturers keen to switch back to the cheaper of the two metals. Some like Deutsche Bank see no change for platinum next year but TD Securities have been very bullish, arguing that platinum could climb above $1,000 – even accounting for the current surplus.
Future technologies like hydrogen fuel cells are very slowly working their way into society, with many critics arguing that Canada has only one hydrogen fuel station (opened in August) and California has seen practically no interest in fuel cell cars despite a year of advocating them. Hyundai’s production target of 2030 seems sensible and realistic, given the time it will take for society to adjust and move away from cars using fossil fuels to greener machines. Toyota are also involved in a similar production schedule, with their new Mirai (Japanese for Future) already announced and likely to be the start of a range of hydrogen-based cars for the decades to come.