South Africa: Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars Could Spell Boom or Bust for SA Platinum Industry

Photo: Amplats
Khomanani platinum mine (file photo).
analysis

Effervescent multi-entrepreneur Elon Musk famously described hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars as 'mind-bogglingly stupid'. The 200,000-plus people employed in SA's platinum mines better hope he is wrong, because if he is right, the platinum industry is destined to go the same way as SA's gold industry.

The perilous future of the platinum industry depends largely on the development of the hydrogen fuel-cell car, and the omens look pretty bad -but not as bad as popularly believed. This battle is not done yet; not by a long shot.

In 2016, Elon Musk, the conceiver and CEO of electric vehicle company Tesla, was asked about hydrogen cars. Not one to hold back, Musk went on a famous rant, saying there were multiple rebuttals to the idea of a hydrogen-powered car, which would become increasingly clear over time.

It's very difficult to make hydrogen and store it for use in a car, he said. Electrolysis (the process which uses platinum to create the electricity) is an extremely inefficient energy production system, roughly half as efficient as just using battery power. The hydrogen atom is pernicious and hard to control. If you do get a leak, it's invisible and extremely dangerous.

And so he went on....

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