Platinum sector faces its Kodak moment in fuel cell technology – by Clara Denina and Silvia Antonioli (Reuters U.S. – May 29, 2015)

LONDON, May 29 (Reuters) – Platinum miners betting on fuel cell vehicles to help boost demand for the precious metal and lift moribund prices are in danger of having their hopes dashed, at least in the medium term: electric and hybrid cars are taking a bigger share of the market.

The world’s three largest platinum producers Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum and Lonmin are all investing in projects related to fuel cell technologies, which generate electricity that can power vehicles by combining hydrogen and oxygen over a platinum catalyst.

But analysts doubt fuel cell vehicles will rival the growth of their electric counterparts, mostly because battery recharging stations are less costly and already more widespread than hydrogen refuelling stations.

“As out of the two new technologies only fuel cells use platinum, I guess the miners think they have no choice,” Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner said. “But people are buying electric cars…and that’s not the case for fuel cells.”

Amplats, which has invested about $35 million in the last five years in companies developing new uses for platinum, mostly through fuel cell technology, is mindful of the stakes.

“I don’t want Anglo American Platinum, or any of our partners or customers to be a Kodak,” Amplats Chief Executive Chris Griffith said last week, referring to the once mighty photography pioneer that was slow to transition to digital photography.

“If fuel cells are not adopted, we may have no auto market for platinum by 2050.”

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