Episode #42 of Cleantech Talk is here! This episode covers my LA Auto Show-inspired VW-Scooby Doo fantasy crossover and “Fair Trade” Copper.
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VW — Scooby Doo Fantasy Crossover
Nicolas profiled VW’s upcoming EVs in this recent article, and I elaborated on why I think it would be marketing gold if they could insert the new Buzz into a relaunched Scooby Doo cartoon series, as the updated, eco-friendly “Mystery Machine.”
Anyone with me?
Nissan’s Decathlete: The New LEAF
Nicolas also spoke about his review of Nissan’s new LEAF. Like a good, dependable decathlete, it’s not spectacular in anything, but is good in everything.
We tend to hear more about what goes on around us rather than what goes on far away, which means that in North America, we tend to overestimate Silicon Valley (which gets lots of coverage) and underestimate the rest of the world (which tends to get less coverage).
Nissan’s autonomous vehicle work is a perfect example of this, as it’s beginning tests of its own self-driving taxis in Japan in March. While GM is ahead of Nissan (GM is ahead of every OEM in this regard; Mary Barra is a genius for having bought Cruise), it’s not as if the world’s biggest-selling automaker (the Renault-Nissa-Mitsubishi Alliance) lacks the resources or the will to catch up.
Nicolas’ coverage of the BMW i3S can be found here, and his impressions relating to Hyundai are here. As for our comments on GM missing out on having Usain Bolt rep the Chevrolet Bolt EV, it turns out Nissan originally signed the Jamaican sprinter back in October 2012 — before the Chevrolet Bolt came out. I’d previously thought they’d signed him in March 2016, thanks to this press release, which was dated more than a year after the Chevy Bolt EV concept was unveiled.
As for the Project Redspace fourth-generation vehicle, the website is here and Nicolas covers the it here. In a world where every member of a family tends to be lost in their own smartphone, it’s hard for me to see the upside into transforming a car into a family space, outside of the first few years of childhood, when kids still think their parents are cool!
“Fair Trade” Copper!
My favorite story this week was James Ayre’s article on Chilean mining giant Codelco’s decision to soon sell de-commoditized copper. It might not be as attention-grabbing as a big solar array or wind farm, or as glamorous as a Tesla event, but having one of the world’s biggest producers start selling premium copper with social-responsibility certifications will also accelerate us towards a cleaner, fairer future.
Norsk Hydro (which, despite its name, is one of the world’s ten biggest aluminum producers!) currently sells two certified grades of aluminum (one with <4 kg CO2 emissions per kg aluminum, and one being 75%+ post-consumer recycled). Sharp-eyed readers will note the certification below shows 4.0 tCO2/tAl, which is the same ratio: 4 tonnes CO2 per tonne aluminum.
“Certified” Aluminum Certificates from Norsk Hydro
If copper and aluminum are on board, you know cobalt can’t be far behind. In the west, the auto industry already has a variety of codes of conduct (such as not sourcing conflict minerals). If you’re on the senior management team of a cobalt mining company (or one which produces cobalt as a by-product), coordinating with certification bodies and ensuring socially responsible practices may allow you to get a premium price over the market — and guarantee that you have customers.
Once we get independent certification standards for “fair trade” cobalt, we’ll knock one of the legs out from under EV critics.
Finally, as an aside — and this bears repeating, over and over — Tesla’s cobalt doesn’t come from the Congo. Panasonic sources most, if not all, of its cobalt from mines in the Philippines. As bad as mining operations can sometimes be in the developing world, I’m pretty sure labor standards are better there than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Which brings us to this week’s map!
Within the DRC, it appears the cobalt mining takes place in south, in the former Katanga province (it was split into four smaller provinces a little while ago). From a quick web perusal, the cobalt comes as a byproduct of copper production at the Tilwezembe, Musonoi, and Kambove mines.