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Archive for the ‘Tech Metals Insider’ Category

A year and a quarter ago, “Tech Metals Insider” launched on Kitco News. What started with the innocent question: “what would happen to precious metals if we all drove electric cars” has become a roller coaster ride into the worlds of energy generation, nuclear fission, transmutation, electronics, and many more. As I was informed by Kitco, my series is enjoying steadily increasing popularity, which is why it was now moved from the “Contributed Commentaries” to the “News” section further up on the website.

As happy as I am with this development, there are a few downsides, too: apart from confusion to readers who will not find my articles where they used to be, news items in this section of the website rotate more quickly, meaning that my articles will not stay on the homepage for an entire week. They drop below the fold after about two days where they are harder to find. Here is how to get to my column:

Once an article is published, you will find it labeled “Featured” on the homepage:

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Afterwards, my reports can be found either by clicking “more news” and scrolling down, or via this direct link which takes you to the archive of all articles I have written so far (it may take a second or two to scroll to my name). Sorry about the inconvenience. I think it will be all for the better in the long run – we’ll see.

Many thanks to all of you who took an interest in my series, and to those who wrote in response to my sometimes controversial topics. I will continue to respond to all reader mail unless it is anonymous or contains personal insults – happy to report that there were VERY few of those so far. Have fun with the fascinating world of technology metals in 2015.

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“Metal Chemistry – Exponential Developments that Shape our Future”

AIChE Logo

Presentation at the 8th Annual Energy and Resources Conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, New York Metro Section on September 15, 2014. Information is available here: http://www.aiche-metrony.org/2014%20Energy%20Conf%20flyer.pdf

IPMI Logo

“Automotive Catalysts – A Swan Song”

Presentation at the Fall Seminar of the International Precious Metals Institute, New York Chapter, on September 17, 2014. For information click here: http://www.ipmi.org/chap_mnyc/

Looking forward to seeing you at one of these events, or at any time during Platinum Week.

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Degussa PforzheimCongratulations to my friends at Degussa on their new precious metals refinery in Pforzheim, Germany. History has gone full circle. Proud and grateful to be part of it. Here is a link to their original press release.

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Only two cars were on display at the show: Hyundai’s updated ix35 which is on public roads already, and Toyota’s FCEV concept. Honda decided not to bring their prototype for some reason – their entire booth was surprisingly void of anything electric or “sustainable”. You have to wonder why they decided to do that.

If you follow my articles on KITCO News you will know that I had the privilege of driving the ix35 fuel cell car in Germany last year. So I was happy to get confirmation of their plan to release 1,000 fuel cell cars in California during 2014. The roll-out is about to begin, and the terms are very attractive: $499 monthly lease, which includes “all you can use” hydrogen for the duration of the term. There aren’t many refueling stations yet which is a downside, but California just pledged to build 200 of them, and the ix35 has a range of over 300 miles, similar to a Tesla, so it shouldn’t be too big of an issue unless you want to travel town-to-town.

Toyota FCEV

Toyota FCEV

Toyota, on the other hand, assured me that the prototype on display will be very close to the final product. The rear view cameras will be exchanged with conventional mirrors, of course, and crash test requirements will surely take a toll, too. I hope the sparkly headlight LEDs will stay; they look really cool (pic below). According to statements made by Toyota the company was able to reduce the cost of building the power train by over 90%, and they are planning to sell the cars below cost at a price comparable to a battery electric vehicle (typically $30-40k). Here is a link to a Toyota press release giving more information on their plans, and a link to a Reuters article on pricing.

If 2014 is the American year of the electric car, I have little doubt that 2015 will be the American year of the hydrogen car.

Toyota FCEV LED headlight

Toyota FCEV LED headlight

(Pictures: Felix Albrecht)

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Hardly any manufacturer at this year’s auto show did not bring an electric or “alternative energy” vehicle along. With Tesla being absent, all players in the “pure electric” segment are in the 80-100 mile range with batteries varying from 22 – 28kWh (except for the Toyota RAV4 EV which still has a 42kWh battery, it seems.) The only surprise to me, perhaps, and a bit of a disappointment, was Mercedes’ confession that their new B-Class EV won’t have more range either. While an official EPA rating for the U.S. is still pending, the product specialists present said it would be anywhere between 80-100 miles per charge.

Most of these cars will reportedly go on sale in the U.S. some time this year with CA and other coastal regions receiving priority – all because of the energy credits to be obtained, no doubt. The “rest” of the country will get the cars in 2015.

There was some confusion on the use of the word “range extender” which to BMW signifies a petrol engine while being used to describe regenerated energy by everybody else. Technically, I believe that BMW will have to accept at some point that what they have created is a hybrid, and not an electric vehicle. Here are some pics, all taken by my son Felix, by the way:

Toyota RAV4 - EV

Toyota RAV4 – EV

Mercedes Benz B-Class EV

Mercedes Benz B-Class EV

 

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VW e-Golf

VW e-Golf

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Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul EV

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Not much new in the hybrid section, and I sincerely hope BMW will forgive me for lumping them in here. I realize there is a pure electric version of the i3 but if internal sources can be trusted then the majority of customers is opting for the “REx” (range extended) version, which – as I said before – makes it a hybrid in my book. So here we go:

 

 

Audi A3 e-tron

Audi A3 e-tron

BMW i3 / i8

BMW i3 / i8

BMW X5 eDrive

BMW X5 eDrive

 

Trunk, unusable if you want to show off the cool blue eDrive cover.

Trunk, unusable if you want to show off the cool blue eDrive cover.

 

Cadillac ELR - if the Chevy Volt just doesn't look fancy enough in your garage.

Cadillac ELR – if the Chevy Volt just doesn’t look fancy enough in your garage.

 

Porsche 918 - more fun to run on conventional gasoline because of the flames coming out in back.

Porsche 918 – more fun to run on conventional gasoline because of the flames coming out in back.

 

I will post pics of hydrogen powered vehicles and other novelties in a little while so please check back later.

Finally, here are high-res versions of the pics used in my KITCO News report on the show:

Kitco Slide 1

Kitco Slide 2

 

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Earlier this week my article on a modern day alchemist was published on KITCO News. It was one of the more fun articles to produce; initiated through a contact on LinkedIn and after several rounds of me guaranteeing fairness and secrecy, my interview partner Lewis Larsen was finally prepared to talk to me. I don’t blame him since he never met me. In reality, I was curious in what I like to think of as an open-minded way I generally approach “impossible” things with. At the end, Lewis was very pleased with the product, and gave his permission to publish it.

cropped-etween-lead-and-gold.jpgI also have to admit that alchemy and transmutations are things I first encountered in one of my fantasy computer games of old. Was it “Dungeon Siege”? Remember my old blog banner “From Lead to Gold” by GARD? I only retired it a few months ago. Anyway, I think we all more or less make the association of transmutation and mythological stories. So I was surprised to read all the background material provided by Lewis, read several more articles on the internet, and finally talk to someone who, instead of wearing a pointy hat (metaphorically speaking, I didn’t meet him in person), explained to me in rather logic and reasonable terms why transmutation is quite real and natural.

Quite fascinating, especially as precious metals are created as a “by the way” of producing very low cost energy through a low energy fusion process. Two unbelievable technologies in one box made the entire concept even more incomprehensible. But I, being the magician’s apprentice only of course, was unable to find much on the web disproving the idea beyond sarcasm and dismissive statements of a general nature. So why not? Now that the article has been out for a few days I am still waiting for reader mail debunking the story. Au contraire, a second alchemist wrote to me explaining how this was all old news. He is currently looking for money on Kickstarter to fund the scale-up of his own patent-pending process. I can’t help but admire anyone explaining in all seriousness how he is capable of transmuting silica (a.k.a. glass) into gold and iridium.

What an amazing encounter. What do you think? Alchemy: myth or possible?

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As part of my “Tech Metals Insider” column on KITCO News I just released the first part of a segment drilling deeper into which metals are used where, and in what quantities. To make it as user friendly as possible I condensed the information collected over the past six months into one spreadsheet which is available for download here: Technology metals in passenger cars part 1. As a faithful reader of my personal blog you have preferred access – I will post a link to the official article as soon as it was published.

Tech Mets in Cars Title

Part 2 will deal with the many little helpers, fairies and gremlins in our cars that we don’t even think about anymore. Should be even more fun than this one so please check back for it next week. And before I forget, this previously published picture might be useful to provide additional context.

this picture

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