Articles in Category: Product Developments

Among many other things, India is a land of auto rickshaws (or “tuk-tuks,” as they are called in Thailand).

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These three-wheeler “traffic dodgers” are a common sight on Indian roads. They also form part of India’s exports to other nations in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Just a couple of days ago, the tuk-tuk debuted in Omaha, Nebraska, too.

Perhaps keeping in mind its ever-increasing popularity around the globe, Indian steel company Jindal Stainless has announced it would soon be manufacturing stainless steel e-rickshaws, the Business Standard reported.

The steel major showed off a prototype at the 9th Electric Vehicles Expo, which drew enthusiastic crowds. About 600,000 e-rickshaws are being sold every year in India, and Jindal Stainless feels it could easily corner 25% of that multimillion-dollar market with its new product. Furthermore, the market is estimated to grow at 16% CAGR over the next five years, the Business Standard reported.

Jindal officials said there was demand from India’s first- and second-tier cities. One of them was Lucknow, the capital of India’s largest province, Uttar Pradesh. They expect an annual demand of 13,000 tons of steel from the sector by 2021.

Jindal claims to have manufactured India’s first-ever stainless steel e-rickshaw, claiming it was far superior in chassis performance as compared to carbon steel e-rickshaws.

The lifespan of the carbon steel vehicles is low as compared to the stainless steel counterpart. Safety, too, is better in the latter because of its high strength-to-weight ratio, improved crash resistance and corrosion prevention. Stainless steel components lead to 14-15% reduction in overall body weight, according to the Business Standard, resulting in higher battery efficiency. Not only that, a stainless steel “auto” will fetch a higher value when scrapped, as compared to the carbon steel counterpart.

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Jindal has already received advance orders of 100 stainless steel e-rickshaws. More are expected since India’s electric vehicle market is expected to grow exponentially in the coming decade.

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Tin is most noted for its use as a coating or as part of a wide array of alloys.

In the Bronze Age, bronze was often formed as an alloy of copper and tin to make, among other things, various tools and weapons.

Fast forward to the modern day — tin cans are probably the first thing one thinks of when they hear the world “tin.” Tin cans are actually fashioned out of steel and coated with tin, which offers corrosion resistance.

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However, a British firm is deploying tin for another, far more cosmic purpose: harvesting energy from our sun.

According to the International Tin Association, the British firm Oxford PV plans to bring to market a tin-using, perovskite-based solar cell by the end of next year. Perovskite is a mineral made up mostly of calcium titanate, contrasting with the silicon used in traditional photovoltaic cells. In previous iterations, lead had been used; now, the hope is tin can be a safer, more efficient element in the photovoltaic cell.

“ITA has been tracking R&D developments in tin-containing perovskite solar technology for some years now and is amongst a set of next-generation renewable energy technologies that will be positive for tin demand,” the ITA said in a release.

Oxford PV was established in 2010, based on research pioneered by Henry Snaith at Oxford University.

“Our perovskite solar cell technology will allow silicon solar cell and module manufacturers to break through their performance barrier,” Oxford PV says on its website. “Significantly improving the performance of silicon photovoltaics, will allow cost reductions, that transform the economics and accelerate the growth of solar energy generation globally.”

Why are perovskite-based solar cells attractive? According to the ITA, they are “cheaper, more efficient and easier to produce than standard solar panels.” However, the cells do carry durability concerns.

Similarly, in 2014 a team of Northwestern University scientists published research in the journal Nature Photonics on lead-free solid-state organic–inorganic halide perovskite solar cells. In the team’s abstract, it wrote that the “reported CH3NH3SnI3–xBrx perovskite solar cells represent a step towards the realization of low-cost, environmentally friendly solid-state solar cells.”

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This morning in metals news, the price of SHFE rebar continued its rise Tuesday, the Aluminum Association released its first new material registration record in almost two decades and Brazilian steelmakers are struggling with an iron ore shortage.

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Shanghai Rebar Rises

The price of Shanghai rebar reached its highest level in over seven years amid expectations of infrastructure-related stimulus measures in China, Reuters reported.

The Shanghai rebar price closed up 1.4% Tuesday at 3,829 yuan ($570.45) per ton, according to the report.

Aluminum Association Announces Material Designation System for 3D Printing

The Aluminum Association this week released its first material designation record in almost two decades.

The designation covers so-called “purple sheets,” which cover aluminum powder used in 3D printing.

“The purple sheets are the newest addition to the Aluminum Association’s long-running ‘rainbow sheet’ series, which provides alloy designations and chemical composition limits for various types of aluminum,” the Aluminum Association said in a release. “Aluminum is the first materials industry to develop such a system specific to the 3D printing market.
“The first registration granted is for a high-strength aluminum alloy produced by HRL Laboratories, LLC. The association will grant HRL registration number 7A77.50 for the aluminum powder used to additively manufacture the alloy, and number 7A77.60L for the printed alloy.”

Iron Ore in Brazil

Brazilian steelmakers are facing a shortage of the key steelmaking ingredient iron ore in the months after Vale SA’s fatal dam breach at its Corrego do Feijao mine, Reuters reported.

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The company’s decision to halt operation at 10 of its sites in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais has disrupted supplies of iron ore pellets to steelmakers, according to the report.

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner:

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According to recent research by the International Tin Association, tin could see increased use in lithium-ion batteries in the next decade.

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“ITA tracks global R&D, patents and markets for tin and has identified a strongly growing interest in tin in energy materials and technologies, including lithium-ion batteries,” the association said in a release. “Tin has a wide range of technical properties that mean its uses extend to many areas of everyday life. For the same reason, it can adapt well to meet emerging needs for new materials that can generate, store and deliver tomorrow’s energy.

Per the release, ITA has identified “nine technology opportunities for tin in lithium-ion batteries, mainly in high-capacity anode electrode materials, but also in solid-state and cathode materials.”

Lithium-ion batteries are used in a wide variety of applications, from pacemakers to cellphones.

“It is concluded that if tin does gain market share, lithium-ion batteries could grow to represent a significant new tin use in the 2025-2030 timescale,” the ITA says in its release.

The idea of turning to tin for use in lithium-ion batteries isn’t new.

A 2012 Forbes article cites research by the Washington State University, in which they tested anodes made of tin (as opposed to graphite).

“In particular, the researchers have developed an anode made of tin, rather than the carbon used currently,” a 2012 university release about the research stated. “Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are made up of two electrodes, the cathode and an anode. During charging, the lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode. The anode holds the lithium ions and stores the battery’s energy. When the battery is used, the ions move from the anode to the cathode, discharging electrons and creating an electric circuit.
“The new tin anode has the potential to store almost three times the energy of graphite.”

According to the United States Geological Survey, in 2017 China led the way in tin production, producing 100,000 tons, followed by Indonesia and Myanmar (50,000 tons apiece).

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For more information on the ITA research, visit the ITA website.

Tin Price Trends

As for price, LME tin rode a downtrend from April 2018 through the end of November, before gradually picking up over the next 2 1/2 months.

LME tin price since the beginning of 2018. Source: LME

The LME tin price hit $18,850 as of Dec. 3, 2018, and has increased 11.9% to $21,100 as of Feb. 19. As we noted in our most recent Monthly Metals Outlook report, a nearly 51% decline in LME stocks since December has helped drive the price uptrend.

Tin Production

According to another ITA release, a Tasmanian tin mine posted record production in January.

The Renison mine, a joint venture of Metals X and Yunnan Tin Group, produced 871 tons of tin in January.

“Australian mining appears to be ramping up, with increased tin output from Renison coinciding with new production at the Granville mine,” the ITA said. “Despite bush fires threatening production in January and forcing the mine to suspend operations for two days, Renison still achieved record output. This bears well for the future of the mine, which is due to report its updated resource estimate in the June quarter.”

General Motors’ new eBike brand has a name.

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On the heels of a crowdsourcing campaign launched in November, GM announced late last week that its new electronic bike brand will be dubbed ARĪV.

The bikes were available for preorder starting Feb. 14. According to a GM release, the eBikes will be launching first in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands due to “the popularity of lithium-ion battery-powered eBikes in those markets.”

The eBikes will begin being shipped to customers starting in the second quarter of this year.

Meld and Merge

GM’s new eBikes come in two models: a Meld compact bike and a Merge folding bike.

When it comes to electrified transportation, everyone wants to know about range.

“The battery was validated to rigorous safety standards similar to GM’s electric vehicles batteries,” the release states. “Riders can charge their ARĪV eBike’s battery in approximately 3.5 hours and receive up to 64 kilometers of ride time on a single charge.

“The ARĪV Merge and Meld come standard with safety components such as integrated, rechargeable front and rear LED safety lights for increased visibility and oversized brake rotors to increase stopping power.”

The bikes can reach speeds of up to 25 kph, the release states, powered by “four levels of pedal-assisted power.”

Features and Cost

Other features include an app, connectable via Bluetooth, which provides data like speed, distance and remaining battery level, among other pieces of information. The eBikes also come with a mount for smartphones and a built-in USB port for on-the-go charging purposes.

So, what will interested consumers be forking over to acquire one of these bikes?

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Per the release, in Germany the Meld is going for €2,750, while the Merge will come in at €3,350. Meanwhile, in Belgium and the Netherlands, the Meld and Merge bikes will cost €2,800 and €3,400, respectively.

It’s a new world across all industries, as companies grapple with changing consumer tastes, ever-shifting market conditions and new technological developments.

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Of course, the automotive industry is no different, as automakers strive to adapt to the electric vehicle (EV) wave while simultaneously keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to what their customers want.

For Ford Motor Co., adapting meant ditching its lineup of sedans in the North American market, instead focusing on its popular SUVs and pickup trucks.

Other types of adaptation to a changing business world include simply partnering up with an industry colleague and pooling resources, if you will.

In that vein, this week Ford announced a partnership with Volkswagen, which it called “the first formal agreements in a broad alliance that positions the companies to boost competitiveness and better serve customers in an era of rapid change in the industry.”

According to the company announcement, the automakers plan to collaborate on production of commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for the global market as early as 2022. The alliance between the two companies will be led by a joint committee, which will include Ford CEO Jim Hackett, Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess and other senior executives from the two companies.

“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” Hackett said. “It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

In addition to collaboration on vans and trucks, the automakers could work together on electric vehicles.

“In addition, Volkswagen and Ford have signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles and have started to explore opportunities,” a Ford release stated. “Both companies also said they were open to considering additional vehicle programs in the future. The teams will continue working through details in the coming months.”

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Ford is scheduled to announce its fourth-quarter 2018 and full-year results during a conference call at 4:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

In other news, Volkswagen this week announced it would build its North American electric vehicle manufacturing base in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“Strengthening the company’s commitment to an electric mobility future, this expansion of Volkswagen’s U.S. footprint will include an investment of $800 million into the Chattanooga facility and create 1,000 jobs at the plant, plus additional jobs at suppliers,” a Volkswagen release stated. “EV production at the site will begin in 2022.”

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the stories here on MetalMiner:

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ThomasNet ran a piece this week on China’s latest blockbuster in the electric vehicle (EV) market: the Ora R1 hatchback from domestic automaker Great Wall.

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I say “blockbuster” not because it’s a rival to Tesla or a similar high-end brand — quite the opposite.

At under $9,000 (after massive subsidies available at the state and federal level in China), the Ora R1 could be a blockbuster in terms of sales.

With a projected range of 194 miles between charges and four doors, the article suggests the vehicle is firmly aimed at the less well-off commuter. In that context, it could have massive appeal for the authorities fighting smog and other forms of air pollution in China’s crowded cities.

The Ora R1 runs on just 47 horsepower with a top speed of about 62 mph, according to the report, which also quotes experts who say it should be capable of powering commuters for about a week per charge (based on real-world driving patterns).

Sounds like a winner, doesn’t it?

Maybe it will be, but for us it has echoes of Tata’s Nano “people’s car,” designed to lure consumers off their cheap motorcycles and into their set of four wheels.

Poor quality, reliability and growing losses forced Tata out of the sector. It was not helped, it should be added, by a PR disaster when the Nano displayed a tendency to burst into flames, frequently recorded on social media.

The Ora is packaging the R1 with a three-year, 120,000-kilometer (74,500 mile) warranty for the entire car, and an eight-year, 150,000-kilometer (93,200 mile) warranty for “core components,” suggesting reliability shouldn’t be a worry – providing the manufacturer honors its commitments.

Source: Great Wall Motors

Whether the Ora R1 will fare any better than the Nano remains to be seen. At prices between U.S. $8,680 to U.S. $11,293, the price is heavily subsidized and should retail at twice that level.

Even so, a $20,000 price in unsubsidized markets would pitch the Ora well under current small car contenders, such as the Nissan Leaf.

But success or failure hinges even more on quality and reliability in this sector than it did for the Nano in India, where consumers’ expectations were not high. EVs outside of China have so far been relatively high-end products with classy interiors and many modern innovations.

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A first road test for the R1 has yet to be released by the Western press. It has to be said, in the visual sense the car looks as bad as the old East German Trabant — but if it drives well, achieves its range projections and holds up from a reliability perspective, owners may yet ignore its ugly duckling looks and flock to what could prove to be a disrupter for the lower end of the EV market.

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner:

Need buying strategies for steel? Request your two-month free trial of MetalMiner’s Outlook

MetalMiner’s Annual Outlook provides 2019 buying strategies for carbon steel