The Realities of the Energy Transition And PGMs

Jeffrey Christian

9th February 2023


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There is a great deal of hope in South Africa that PGMs will find large new uses in new energy technologies in the emerging ‘energy transition.’ There are some realistic bases for this optimism, but a lot of hope is based on aspirations that may not come to pass.

First, SA PGM stakeholders should accept that EVs are eating into PGM-bearing petroleum powered vehicles, a trend that is and will continue to reduce PGM demand in the auto industry. In 2022 10% of global light duty vehicle production was EV. This will eat into PGM demand for at least the next decade.

Fuel Cells

Fuel cells will not use a lot of platinum. The chart here shows in black estimated actual platinum use in fuel cells, contrasted to the persistent statements by SA PGM producers about massive platinum use, always about 10 years away.

It has not happened for half a century. It most likely will not in the future. Fuel cell vehicles may work for fleets at airports, warehouses, and intra-city buses, but not for on-road passenger vehicles. The costs and technology are not competitive. The IEA assumes they will be uncompetitive at least for decades. Meanwhile, most fuel cell manufacturers have engineered platinum out of their future fuel cells.


A lot of hope is invested in hydrogen as a fuel. If hydrogen can be shipped, stored, and distributed cheaply and safely, PGM producers say, then fuel cell vehicles will take off. The key is liquid organic hydrogen carriers.

However, auto executives say that if someone can safely and cheaply deliver, store, and distribute hydrogen, they will push for hydrogen engines.

Fuel cells are costly and finicky new technology. Hydrogen engines are simple and have been around for two centuries. In fact, the first ICE was invented and demonstrated in 1806 using hydrogen.


Again, the IEA does not see any major use of PGMs in electrolysers for decades to come.

The Good News For PGMs

There is good news for PGM demand in the energy transition. The IEA, CPM, and other unbiased research organizations do not expect the movement away from hydrocarbons to be as rapid as promoters and politicians suggest.

The IEA and CPM both project that even in 2050 the majority of humankind’s fuel will be hydrocarbons.

This means PGMs will be needed to clean the exhaust from hydrocarbon-burning vehicles and facilities for decades to come.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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Universal Storage Systems (SA)

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