Demand, not supply, is the great unknown for lithium and cobalt – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – June 15, 2017)

The number of electric vehicles on roads worldwide rose to a record high of 2 million last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). That represented a doubling from the 2015 tally but electric cars still only accounted for 0.2 percent of the global count.

How many will there be in five years’ time? Or in 10 years’ time? The answer to that question will determine the fortunes of multiple metals over the coming years.

Battery materials such as lithium and cobalt are already bubbling as supply chains which have historically evolved to meet niche applications adapt to the much bigger demands of the green technology revolution.

The likes of aluminum and copper can be expected to continue benefiting from greater usage across a transport sector increasingly defined by lightweighting and enhanced electrical circuitry. Platinum and palladium, by contrast, could be losers as electrification reduces the need for catalytic converters. But both supply and price are going to depend on what happens to demand. And that is the electric elephant in the room.

Analysts at Swiss bank UBS attempted to answer the question by tearing apart piece by piece a Chevy Bolt, which must top the list of fun things to do if you’re a bank researcher.

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