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Published on February 18th, 2018 | by Matthew Klippenstein

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Cobalt: From Drama To Calmer, & Car2Go Success In Vancouver (#CleantechTalk 47)

February 18th, 2018 by  


Episode #47 of Cleantech Talk is here! This episode covers cobalt, EV batteries, Tesla batteries, and Car2Go.

You can listen to this episode and subscribe to Cleantech Talk on iTunes or Soundcloud. You can also listen via the embedded player above or download this episode.

If you’re feeling garrulous, you can reach Zachary at @cleantechnica; Matthew’s @ElectronComm. And if you’re feeling generous, CleanTechnica’s Patreon account is at https://www.patreon.com/CleanTechnica! Moral and monetary support are both warmly welcomed!

Jump into the show notes below for more goodies!

Cobalt will go from drama to “calma”

Zachary returned to Cleantech Talk this week talking cobalt — and specifically, how a cobalt shortage won’t short-circuit the EV revolution. While we noted BMW reserving itself some lithium and cobalt supply, we focused on the reasons BNEF is confident cobalt won’t remain in short supply.

They used the example of solar-grade silicon, which spiked in price about 10 years ago. The shortage got resolved pretty quickly, and prices have continued plummeting, making everyone except First Solar shareholders happy. (First Solar’s stock had soared on the then-common assumption it would dominate the solar sector, then sank when it became clear solar silicon prices would plummet. From almost all accounts, it’s a healthy company, expectations had simply gotten way too high. Also worth noting is that several top solar companies — including in the crystalline silicon solar PV industry — have gone bankrupt from the rapid cost drops of solar.)

Solar silicon price spike (BNEF) and First Solar stock price (Finance.Google.com)

While I’m pretty sure cobalt will be cheaper in, say, 10 years than it is today, I’m not as confident that the price will be lower one year from now. While solar-grade silicon is a highly refined and purified product — it requires at least 6 nines of purity, or 99.9999% — cobalt is a metal, a commodity. And commodity price movements tend to be relatively slow.

After prices move upwards, it often take a few years for enough supply to come online (or for users to switch to cheaper materials) and prices to sink. A 40 year chart of copper shows this trend. Note that it’s not corrected for inflation, which means that in real terms, current prices probably aren’t *that* much higher than they were 30 years ago.

Forty-plus years of copper prices. Source: Macrocharts

Meanwhile, CleanTechnica’s article on the warnings from Daimler’s “Dr Z” about the transportation transition possibly requiring supplier bailouts is here.  

Car2Go’s success in Vancouver

While I still haven’t been able to find an online reference to Vancouver being the first place Car2Go has turned a profit, it’s definitely Car2Go’s most successful city on a per-capita basis, helping make Vancouver into North America’s carsharing capital.

Car2Go (and cyclists!) in Vancouver. Source: Vancity Buzz.

I mentioned in the podcast a Berkeley study claiming each carsharing vehicle removes up to 11 autos from city streets. In a totally non-scientific poll of colleagues, the general sense was that carsharing allows most families to get by with one car, and forgo the second one. Even in Vancouver, only a small minority of households with kids are completely car-free.

And in the spirit of last week’s YIMBY theme, I’m more than willing to accept combustion carsharing vehicles if they remove demand for 11 vehicles (which will almost certainly all themselves be ICE vehicles). I’d strongly prefer for those carsharing vehicles to be ZEVs, of course, but I’ll embrace a fleet of combustion carshare vehicles if they knock out 10 times as much combustion vehicle demand!


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About the Author

Matthew Klippenstein is a renewable energy consultant in Vancouver, Canada. He has chronicled the Canadian electric car market for GreenCarReports.com since 2013, and has provided commentary (in English and French) for print, television, radio, web and podcast media. An early guest on "The Energy Transition Show", his work has also been discussed on "The Energy Gang". An occasional contributor to CleanTechnica, he co-hosts our own CleanTech Talk with Nicolas Zart.



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