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The American Year of the Electric Car - A Report From the New York International Auto Show

Mobility and electronics are two key industries determining the future demand of precious metals, specialty metals and rare earth elements in technical applications. Auto shows, therefore, are important indicators of the direction these industries are taking.

This year’s New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), which is usually not one of the most significant auto shows in the world, featured an unusually high number of new car unveilings this year. It appeared that with the usual five-year cycle, companies were eager to show off their new technologies and designs.

Industry observer Jalopnik suspects this to be the result of the 2008/2009 economic crisis which prompted many car manufacturers to change course.

Few manufacturers showed up without new electric vehicles, hybrids or other novel concepts of sustainable mobility, or at least reduced energy consumption. To sum up the theme: 2014 is the American year of the battery electric vehicle. No more announcements, no more prototypes. New products are ready for deployment, first in the 10 coastal states granting energy credits, later everywhere in North America.

Please click here for a high-resolution version of the image.

The focus of Tech Metals Insider is on technology. Comments on previous issues do, however, suggest that the cars in question spark curiosity as well. So please head over here to see show pictures of new electric vehicles and hybrids for release in 2014.

In the absence of Tesla who coincidentally -- on April 17 -- had to stop selling cars directly in New Jersey (we reported earlier) – there was only one class of battery-electric vehicle (BEV) on display. These vehicles are generally based on existing platforms of their internal combustion engine (ICE) brethren with little interior or exterior modification, very similar to Nissan’s “Leaf” which so far enjoyed a monopoly in this segment.

All the models offer driving ranges of about 80-100 miles (130 – 160km) per charge, with costs ranging about $40,000 to $50,000, and many of them are equipped with multiple charging options to make the process quick and simple. The new offerings are clearly targeted to a broader audience and will doubtlessly make electric mobility a lot more popular in urban parts of the country from now on.

At the same time, Hyundai exhibited their updated version of the ix35 hydrogen vehicle of which they expect to deploy 1,000 units later this year, all in California where a sufficient network of fueling stations is under construction. To counter the argument of high hydrogen (H2) cost, the car comes with the promise of free H2 for the duration of the three-year lease period. This is of strategic importance as it sets the bar for Toyota and Honda who will both launch their own fuel cell cars next year: Toyota already announced a low price point to build a footprint for H2 vehicles, and Hyundai’s $499 lease offer (half the price of a Tesla at a similar driving range) will be the benchmark. Great news for anyone willing to get on board with this new technology.

Equally important are new electronics being deployed in cars overall. The list goes far beyond LEDs and airbags:

  • Multiple LED screens on many dashboards
  • Rearview cameras as standard
  • Adaptive cruise control and night vision systems finding broader use in higher end cars
  • Autonomous driving
  • Automatic emergency breaking
  • Electronic device integration (smartphones, tablets) and connectivity

Please click here for a high-resolution version of the image.

It came as no surprise that Toyota presented its fuel cell sedan as the opener at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The symbiosis of handheld devices and cars is a trend to look out for next – a trend that will ultimately extend even more to our homes; a trend that will make people completely “connected” if they chose to be; a trend that cannot take place without technology metals.

By Bodo Albrecht



Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in precious metal products, commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.
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