The Rise of the Hydrogen Economy

EVs are becoming popular as the charging  infrastructure becomes prevalent in cities and auto manufacturers are releasing more EV models. We have seen a scramble for battery metals in the mining industry. Currently, forecasted demand is outpacing forecasted supply for metals such as lithium which may create some problems for battery EVs in the coming years. On the other hand, hydrogen fuel cell EVs do not require large batteries. They instead generate electricity with the help of hydrogen and oxygen. As of December 2020, 31,225 passenger FCEVs powered with hydrogen had been sold worldwide. Unlike battery EVs, FCEVs require a considerable amount of platinum and hydrogen storage requires palladium, making the development of the hydrogen economy very much exciting for platinum group metals. Current FCEVs use one to two ounces of platinum, which is far more than what is in a diesel catalytic converter.

The Tokyo Olympics of summer 2021 and Chinese Winter Olympics have been important to bring FCEVs into the limelight. Buses used to transport athletes around were powered by hydrogen fuel cells.The Tokyo Olympics featured 100 hydrogen fuel cell buses as part of Japan’s demonstration of the possibilities of a hydrogen energy infrastructure. The Beijing Winter Olympic Games had a  fleet of 655 fuel cell buses being used to transport athletes and fans around the city of Zhangjiakou.

According to the Heraeus group, China has very ambitious plans for commercial fuel cell  vehicles. Over the last seven years, China’s commercial FCEVs production amounted to around 5,500 vehicles. Over 80% of these were buses. The national FCEV plan established in April 2020 targets output of 50,000 by 2025 and 1 million in 2030. Considering FCEVs are using about one to to two ounces of platinum and the current annual global platinum production is about 6 million ounces a year tells that mainstream adoption of FCEV will have a tremendous impact on platinum. Instead of subsidizing the price of FCEVs, as in the soon-to-expire New Energy Vehicle program for promoting the purchase of electric cars by consumers, China introduced a four-year pilot program in the form of financial awards from the central government for FCEV research, development and demonstration applications. Platinum demand for commercial FCEVs is beginning to accumulate. It is only a small proportion of total industrial demand at present, but the bus programs in place in 2022 are likely to account for several thousand ounces of metal. Realization of long-term ambitions for bus and truck fleets would see demand for platinum becoming significant during the decades ahead.

China and Japan are not the only two countries to have a planned increase in the use of FCEVs. South Korea, more specifically in their port cities of Bulsan and Ulsan have made plans to also introduce FCEV buses which will replace internal combustion engines in the cities. European countries are also making announcements to introduce FCEVs to its fleet of buses. The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Council was a group formed in the US, just last month during the time of writing, which advocates and educates on behalf of Fuel Cell technology for the public transport sector. Countries around the world are beginning to show legitimate interest in fuel cell technology, especially now with all the advances in innovation. As countries start to build the required infrastructure for FCEVs, we may begin to see an increase in FCEVs for personal uses as well. For example, Toyota sells a hydrogen model called Mirai which has a range of around 400 miles on a full tank of hydrogen. It takes roughly five minutes to fill a full tank of hydrogen. Toyota will even give drivers complimentary fuel worth up to $15,000. Click here to watch a video of Shell and the launch of their hydrogen fueling station in Vancouver.

New Age Metals owns 100% of a multi-million ounce district scale platinum group metal (PGM) project only 100 kilometres from mining friendly Sudbury, Ontario, called the River Valley Palladium Project. Although the mineral resources at the property are dominated by palladium there is a significant platinum credit of about 600,000 ounces of platinum in the Measured + Indicated resource classification and another 480,000 ounces of platinum in the Inferred resource classification. River Valley is a truly unique asset that hosts a polymetallic deposit of various critical metals which will be vital for a clean energy future. Currently, Russia and South Africa are the top exporters of PGMs but both these jurisdictions have presented political and infrastructural instabilities. Flooded mines in Russia, threats of economic sanctions following Ukraine aggression to days long power outages in South Africa. River Valley has the potential to supply the North American auto manufacturers with the PGMs they need for catalytic convertors and the budding hydrogen economy.