Author Archives: sppage2019

E-Biking to the Beach Office – The Future of Rare Earths?

In the midst of a global COVID-19 Pandemic, office workers have gone “cubicle-free” and the public has become more skeptical over how to safely commute using public transportation than ever before. After creating the new verb of the decade, companies like Uber (let’s “Uber” to the show) and Lyft are being used even less frequently now for standard public transit and most often for their food delivery services — Uber just recently purchased food delivery company Postmates for $2.65 Billion after losing out on an attempted merger with industry leader Grubhub. They are expected to double-down on a newer grocery store delivery service after purchasing the majority share in the company last year.

While these delivery and ride-share companies continue to evolve to stay afloat, one thing is still certain — people require an inexpensive, reliable, and safe way to get around.

Enter the electric bicycle. It may be a game-changer for REs. As both local and federal governments are encouraging social distancing around the world, many commuters are taking to the eBike to remain active while maintaining their distance from one another at the same time, which explains why multiple eBike vendors are reporting sales spikes upwards of almost 50% since February of this year.

Lectric eBikes cofounder Levi Conlow crystallized this new trend in a recent interview: “Our customers have been saying that e-bikes are a great option for the new coronavirus-era way of living. The dramatic increase in sales shows that nationally, people are looking to shift how they get around. It’s also a fantastic option for those looking to socially isolate while getting fresh air outside.

In an eBikesHQ article comparing over 450 ebikes, the largest share of the price bracket pie for a brand new eBike was in the $1000-2000 range.

Unlike electric cars however, one of the largest selling points of an eBike is that your standard bicycle can be easily converted into an eBike with just a few hundred dollars and some tools. Independent of which wheel the motor powers or the voltage of the battery, we compared just the top 50 most popular and most recommended eBike conversion kits around. Assuming those kits advertised as best selling actually are getting the most sales, it would seem like the average consumer is paying about $760 to turn their bicycle into an eBike, battery included!

With no end to the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, and with eBike popularity skyrocketing, eBike neo magnets could be asking for a larger share of the rare earth magnet pie very, very soon. Indeed, eBikes exceeded Hybrid and EV usage of neo magnets in 2015, and were projected to account for more than 70% of Hybrid and EV neo magnet usage in 2020, at 13,000 tpa. (Source: Steve Constantinides, “The Big Picture: Putting the Magnet Market Trends Together,” Brief at Magnetics 2018, Orlando, Florida, February 8, 2018, Slide 9). That share is indeed likely even larger than projected given the sharp drop in vehicle sales in 2020. Better line up now; do you have your order for an eBike ready?

#RareEarths #RareEarthMining #RareEarthMetals #TechnologyMetals #ElectricVehicles #ElectricVehicle #EV #ElectricCar #BusinessModels #Magnetics #Magnets #SupplyChainResearch #ElectricBike

#SynthesisPartners

Do you know where the Rare Earths in All your Gadgets come from?

Precious rare earths metals (REM; not the band) are in our computers; they’re in our cell phones, televisions, hospitals, and trains — and more and more, they’re in our electrified vehicles.

Rare earth permanent magnet (PM) applications have grown rapidly over the past few years, and are projected to keep doing so. As market demand continues to grow for electrified vehicles and electrical gadgets that run on specialized rare earth magnets, more and more light is being shed on where these rare earth metals are actually being mined, and where some of their most strategic customers want them to be mined.

Today, China is the most dominant supplier in the rare earth metals market. However, it was not always so: the US was lead supplier of rare earths and REM technology into the early 1980s. In a post-COVID-19 supply chain world, with every supply network being re-engineered for a new level of resilience, other countries (most notably the United States) have been increasing efforts to localize their rare earth mining and reduce dependence on foreign trade to acquire them.

As rare earths applications increase, it is only natural that the call for transparency about sourcing grows with it. Responsible Sourcing is an increasing priority among participants in the RE mining and metal production business – just like in any business. It is simply good for business to be able to show you operate fairly, treat your workers well and that you buy your materials from responsible suppliers.

However, Responsible Sourcing remains an opaque issue. Rare earth mineral mines are most common in just a handful of countries, which vary greatly in size, population, regulatory approach, governance and GDP. The truth about rare earth mining practices and actual application of mining regulations is hard to find. For example, a simple google search on the status of rare earth mining regulations and status of enforcement action re: same, produces information from a decade ago that is almost the exactly the same as in 2020, (paraphrasing): “There are many calls for reform, esp. in China, but there is little actual information about the status of reform measures.”

For example, China has been making statements about plans and attempts to crack down on illegal rare earth mining for nearly a decade now. When asked about their efforts just last year, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) claimed they were making it easier to subpoena rare-earth companies practicing illegal mining, increasing penalties for being caught, and that they were establishing a “traceability system” to stop illegal market buyers. This is nearly the same thing they were saying on the subject four years ago.

As demand for rare earths rise, so will the calls for improved transparency on sourcing. The illicit mining practices taking place in the Congo over cobalt, or in Nigeria over gold, suggests a few challenges ahead for rare earths sourced from non-transparent mining interests. Very soon, leading electric vehicle companies like Tesla, Chevy (Bolt), and Nissan (Leaf) will either prove that their rare earth magnets and batteries were responsibly sourced, or watch as some sort of large industry exposé forces them into a literal mine field of public scrutiny. We’ll keep you posted.

#RareEarths #RareEarthMining #RareEarthMetals #TechnologyMetals #ElectricVehicles #ElectricVehicle #EV #ElectricCar #BusinessModels #Magnetics #Magnets #SupplyChainResearch

#SynthesisPartners

The Burning Rare-Earth Questions of 2020

It is 2020.  In a time where a non-Chinese dominated rare-earth market is starting to show a hint of possibility, which companies will top this new marketplace is a question on everyone’s mind.  In 2019, US domestic production of Rare Earth mineral concentrates, all of which were exported [to be processed and refined], increased to 26,000 tons- that is a 44% increase up from 2018.

Synthesis Partners has been reaching out to companies and organizations within this market since November 2019, conducting interviews with key individuals while searching for an answer to this very question.  With a primary and secondary-source research scope including over 500 phone calls made and e-mails executed and over 2,000 electronic sources reviewed, Synthesis Partners has managed to maintain over 250 organizational contacts having relevant experience or information for this project.

China still dominates separation and refining of rare earth concentrates to produce oxides, metals, and alloys. However, in this new decade, it is becoming clear that more options are emerging within this field across North America.  Below are two select slides from our research report identifying a few key players starting to surface in the North American marketplace:

For more information as this project continues, send an email to cwhaling@synthesispartners.com for a full copy of the report.

#ElectricVehicles #ElectricVehicle #EV #ElectricCar #BusinessModeIssues

#SynthesisPartners #Gaps #RareEarthElements

New Rare Earth Extraction Technology Could be a Game Changer

Purdue University Researchers have been working on new technologies in the field of rare earth metal extraction. Scientists say that this new patented extraction (February 9, 2020) method uses a ligand assisted chromatography, and has been shown to remove and purify rare earth metals extremely efficiently and with virtually no negative environmental impact.

Right now, many companies across the world don’t even attempt to extract and recycle REEs due to damages caused by the acid-based separation and purification of these elements.

“About 60% of rare earth metals are used in magnets that are needed in almost everyone’s daily lives. These metals are used in electronics, aeroplanes, hybrid cars and even windmills,” Nien-Hwa Linda Wang, whose lab developed the technology, said in a media statement.

“We currently have one dominant foreign source for these metals and if the supply were to be limited for any reason, it would be devastating to people’s lives. It’s not that the resource isn’t available in the US (March 1, 2020), but that we need a better, cleaner way to process these rare earth metals.”

For more information, see Mining.com’s article here (May 10, 2020).

#ElectricVehicles #ElectricVehicle #EV #ElectricCar #BusinessModeIssues

#SynthesisPartners #Gaps #RareEarthElements

North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Charging Market and Supply Chain Assessment: Where are the Gaps and Opportunities?

Synthesis Partners LLC (SP) identified, characterized and ranked many gaps and issues in the North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) supply chain in 2019. In addition SP identified and characterized all key suppliers of EV charging equipment, their current status and plans in the North American supply chain. This work was sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO).

Selected examples of gap statements, starting with utility-related gap statements, follow:

  • Utilities need to make the grid edge autonomous and interactive – But this capital investment for grid-edge improvements is based on distributed energy resources (DER) assets that Utilities do not own.
    • “Utilities considering how to manage two-way power flow and variable distributed energy resources (DER) while maintaining the reliability, efficiency and security of their operations.  Roughly one of every five respondents say their utility plans to spend more than $200 million into modernization over the next three years. An additional 26 percent report they’ll devote $100 million to $200 million to that cause.  The key drivers of the investments that utilities are making in distribution system modernization stem, perhaps ironically, from assets that utilities often don’t own, namely DER such as rooftop solar arrays, electric vehicles and battery energy storage systems.”
  • Utilities Say that Market Conditions Do Not Currently Justify an Emphasis on the Away-From Home Charging Market.
    • “Our view is that although we are willing to fund the placement of chargers away from the home for the convenience of our EV customers, market conditions do not currently justify an emphasis on the away-from home charging market.  For example, ChargePoint continues to build a fee-based charging infrastructure, but they have to wait for the market to develop to the point where they will even start to recoup their investment and actually turn a profit.  In the meantime, they are relying on subsidies.  This is not a sustainable approach and we have to be careful regarding how many resources we devote to developing a charging infrastructure that the market isn’t ready to support. Residential-based charging should be the first focus, high-power, fast-charging should be the 2nd priority.”
  •  EVSE (EV Supplier Equipment) OEM Interactions with Utilities are Sometimes Difficult.
    • “Our engagement with utilities, especially in California, has been a bit difficult.  For example, Southern California Edison (SCE) has its own “Charge Ready” program which provides free/reduced charging equipment and charging services for EVs, including buses.  (https://www.sce.com/business/electric-cars/Charge-Ready).  Programs such as this make it difficult for us to provide a competitive service.  For example, to offset the costs of its Charge Ready program, SCE has removed demand fees.  However, we expect that over the course of time the demand fees will be reinstated which will negate the cost benefits for fleet owners in the long term, but hurts companies such as ours in the near term by leading fleet owners to opt for the SCE program rather than ours.”
  •  Utility Demand Charges Appear to Be a Barrier to EVSE Market Growth.
    • “For a market that is just getting started, the demand charges are a barrier,” Nelder says. If the stations had utilization rates of 80 percent, they might be able to absorb the demand charges, but at 10 percent utilization, they become unprofitable, he said. Utilities put demand charges on large industrial and commercial users who place high demands upon the grid and are based on the customer’s peak use of electricity. In California, utilities have put demand charges on each of EVgo’s stations.  The result is that in some cases, these charges were responsible for more than 90 percent of a charging station’s electricity costs—as high as a $1.96 a kilowatt-hour at some stations during the summer months.  “Demand charges are especially challenging to new charging infrastructure that has not yet reached a sustainable utilization rate,” the study says. “This issue will be compounded by the deployment of next-generation fast-charging stations.”

Examples of EVSE-supplier related gap statements include:

  • Turnkey Mobile Energy Storage vs. Installing Permanent Chargers.
    • “The battery in FreeWire’s charging unit is constantly being charged which negates the necessity of the infrastructure required by permanently installed chargers and results in a reduction in the overall costs, including the purchase of land, electric infrastructure, etc.  Currently, our units are mainly used in workplace charging and applications such as food trucks where our product proves to be more cost-effective than food trucks’ traditional use of diesel generators and as on-demand emergency charging.  Each unit has 2 connectors and average the charging requirements of 6-8 vehicles/day.”
    • “Quiet, non-polluting power for facilities or remote sites, such as food trucks, music events, construction sites, emergency response, and backup power needs. Mobi EV Chargers are ideal for applications that require flexibility and when installing permanent infrastructure is not feasible; they deliver high-performance EV charging capabilities beyond the confines of fixed infrastructure.”
  •  EVSE OEMs Have Reason to Use Proprietary Systems.
    • “If there is a need to create interoperable networks, they will do so.  Competition is Healthy.  Should a company go out of business, often another charging company will take over their business and take the steps necessary to ensure the acquired companies charging equipment is compatible with existing networks.  This was the situation when both Eaton and Schneider left the market – the companies that acquired these firms took on the responsibility to ensure the interoperability of the acquired hardware and software with their own equipment. To the extent that it is in the interest of several companies to work together to improve their collective profitability, then it is in their interest to make their equipment interoperable.  For example, AddEnergie is working with ChargePoint to achieve this.  AddEnergie does advocate roaming interoperability, that is, the ability for an EV to charge in different networks.  In Canada, this has largely been achieved while the U.S. is still working toward this.”
  •  Primary Role of Level 2 Charging vs. High Cost of Fast Charging.
    • “Suncor (through subsidiary Petro Canada) has had Level 2 chargers in operation for over a year and this year we are starting to install prototype Level 3 chargers.  Our equipment supplier, the same supplier used by VW, has been fantastic.  However, as we move forward, we have found that the high cost of electricity at peak times is expensive and means it is highly unlikely that the Level 3 chargers will be profitable.  To address this, we are considering the addition of on-site energy storage units at our fast-charging locations, but this also presents an additional expense and some of our sites have limited space available for energy storage units.”
  •  [MD/HD] Fleet Charging Needs More Development
    • “More funding programs to help fleet owners bridge this financial gap are needed. … For example, if fleet owners want to use Trillium’s EV charging product, PowerUP, the approach that makes the most financial sense over the long term is to build an EV charging capability that will handle projected fleet size.  However, due to the initial expense of this approach where savings will only be realized over time, a more viable near-term solution is to take a scale-up approach where additional charging capability can be added over time as the fleet grows.  However, even with this approach, most of the incentives available to fleet owners to acquired EV capability is spent on pilot buses with little capital remaining for fleet expansion and charging station cost.”

For further information, please see North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Charging Market and Supply Chain Report (2020).

North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Charging Market and Supply Chain Report: Cyber Security Gaps

Cyber Security Gap Statement Analysis

Ten (10) Cyber Security gap statements were identified, which represent 4% of the total number of gap statements.  Questions about the vulnerability of the EV charging infrastructure predominate followed closely by the call for additional EV charging cyber security analysis coordination.   It is important to note that this study did not reach out to cyber security professionals to ask specifically about cyber security questions. 

As a result it is reasonable to assume that the priority given to cyber security issues here is too low, based on the fact that this study did not drill down with cyber security experts regarding cyber security vulnerabilities, and because there is a strong recency bias with regard to cyber security vulnerabilities. Indeed, should a major breach of EV charging networks occur as this sentence is being written, the number of respondents that raise cyber security as a top concern will increase significantly.

North American (NA) Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Supplier Equipment Market and Supply Chain Gap Report (2019)

Introduction

Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions

North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Charging Market and Supply Chain Report: Technical Coordination Gaps

Technical Coordination Gap Statement Analysis

Twenty-one (21) Technical Coordination gap statements were identified, which represent 8% of the total number of gap statements.  Pilot Projects and Education are the most frequently occurring gap areas, followed by Bi-directional charging and issues related to utilities, and other topics.  Below, we highlight the types of pilot projects that sources are seeking for VTO leadership on, to help remove constraints and bottlenecks in the NA EVSE supply chain.

  • V2G Infrastructure Pilot Projects and Assessments
    • “The focus of the pilots needs to be to demonstrate the economic viability of a vehicle-to-grid infrastructure.  In particular, the pilots need to test and ensure that charging transactions can be resolved, e.g., initiated and completed. Hubject of Germany has already demonstrated the capability to do this.” 
    • “In conjunction with this, information on the energy status of the infrastructure needs to be available to optimize charging rates. MOEV has developed software that allows this to take place on a microgrid level.  Implementing this capability at the microgrid level is probably the best approach given the disparity of electricity rates amongst utilities and the high cost of transferring electricity across distances.”
    • “It would be beneficial to have research done on how the infrastructure will handle the charging of thousands of EVs at once.  This type of research would quantify the resources available/needed in relation to a given population of EVs and could help determine the ideal ratio of vehicles-to-grid.  Pilot projects have been done using hundreds of vehicles, but a larger pilot program is needed that would cover thousands of vehicles.”
    • “In addition to encompassing thousands of vehicles, it would be beneficial to have the V2G pilot project cut across utility territories to help determine what is required to develop a truly national charging infrastructure.  The envisioned pilot would focus on how EVs are pulling energy from the grid and how to best manage this energy flow.”
  • Off-Board Bi-Directional Charging Pilots
    • “A small-scale V2G pilot project utilizing off-board bidirectional inverter/chargers was completed by the Los Angeles Air Force Base beginning in 2013, but was too small to demonstrate the commercial viability of V2G.  Now, a larger pilot program is needed to encourage broader support and engagement.”
  • More Engagement with Utilities, Especially with Regard to V2G
    • (Some) “Utilities do not appear to support, and even delay (thru cost and technology barriers) bi-directional energy flow infrastructure pilots from getting off the ground.  [For example …] from the outset, [in DOD Pilot that involved Air Force and Army bases in California, Texas and Maryland as well as the PJM Market, EV OEMs and utilities] … utilities were unwilling to change the way they do business and their approach made the project so costly that it wasn’t viable. Participants in the pilot soon realized that the rates utilities were charging combined with their reluctance to accept new approaches made for an unprofitable business.”
    • “The utilities involved in the pilot as well as utilities in general have proven to be reluctant to accept new generation devices and insist on charging exorbitant prices for electricity and related services.”
    • “It might be helpful for the VTO to initiate a pilot project that would assess the best means for communication between utilities, EVs, chargers and charging networks.  There are a variety of solutions currently available and an assessment needs to be done to determine which solution offers the means to serve the largest percentage of the market.”

North American (NA) Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Supplier Equipment Market and Supply Chain Gap Report (2019)

Introduction

Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions

North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Charging Market and Supply Chain Report: Network Systems Engineering Gaps

Network Systems Engineering Gap Statement Analysis

Twenty-two (22) Network Systems Engineering gap statements were identified, which represent 9% of the total number of gap statements.  Fleet charging, Bi-directional charging, network infrastructure, charging power loss and utility telematics issues represent the most significant sub-gap areas in this category.

North American (NA) Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Supplier Equipment Market and Supply Chain Gap Report (2019)

Introduction

Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions

North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Charging Market and Supply Chain Report: Data Gaps

Data Gap Statement Analysis

Thirty-two (32) Data gap statements were identified, which represent 13% of the total number of gap statements.  Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) issues, infrastructure studies and utility services and planning represent the most significant sub-gap areas in this category.   The data gaps highlight the constraints in EVSE market development caused by inaccurate, imprecise or insufficient data about each of the topics listed above.  The main focus by NA EVSE participants is on the need for improved data regarding V2G developments, infrastructure studies, utility services and planning and MD-HD EV developments.  In essence, participants are seeking accurate, current technical, electricity usage, grid-usage and cost data to help EVSE suppliers design, develop, plan and deliver new products and services.  More information on the study gaps is available upon request.

North American (NA) Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Supplier Equipment Market and Supply Chain Gap Report (2019)

Introduction

Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions

North American Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Charging Market and Supply Chain Report: Standards Gaps

Standards Gap Statement Analysis

Thirty-two (32) Standards gap statements were identified, which represent 13% of the total number of gap statements.  Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) issues and interoperable EV charging standards represent the most significant sub-gap areas in this category.  In general, respondents that discuss standards are almost uniformly frustrated with the slow adoption of a national standard in the US for EV charging.  The main takeaway from the standards gap statements is that key players seek assistance in expediting the process to reach a uniform set of technology protocols for the NA EVSE supply chain.

North American (NA) Light Duty Electric Vehicle (LDEV) Supplier Equipment Market and Supply Chain Gap Report (2019)

Introduction

Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions