As the price of rhodium continues to outshine gold, fetching 10 times as much as the precious metal, with prices exceeding $20 000 per ounce and showing no turnaround any time soon, the mineral used for catalytic converters in electric vehicles (EV) has a last-mile (LM) cold-chain snag.
According to David Savage, associate vice president for the UK and Ireland at GPS fleet tracking company Geotab, infrastructure in support of EV transport as a much-touted solution for the long-standing logistics problem of LM delivery remains inadequate.
Writing for Global Cold Chain News, Savage said “the viability of electrifying LM fleets and LGVs (light goods vehicles) in the cold-chain industry must take into account a number of considerations: the first is the availability of local or en-route fast-charge points”.
In addition, “depot charging will likely be the preferred choice for larger-scale organisations, but many smaller businesses will not have the capital or the physical space to create fleet-wide charging hubs”.
Central to concerns around EV efficiencies for time-sensitive cargo, Savage pointed out, was the investment lag of charging points experienced in suburban and rural areas.
“This is of particular concern to distributors of fresh and frozen goods where round trips are longer. In turn, this means even more pressure on precise routing and load.”
Savage furthermore asked whether the UK and Ireland actually had the electrical grid capacity to support EV transportation during peak times, a challenge that could be compounded by LM EV transportation sitting idle in charging hub queues.
Manufacturers of electric LGV units though are not holding back, especially with global economic indicators showing flickers of hope as Covid-19 vaccination gathers pace.
As far as South Africa is concerned, although it’s a long way off before EV efficiencies filter through, Platinum Minerals Group is riding what seems to be an unstoppable wave of rhodium demand.
Last year January Freight News reported that the mineral was surging at $7.975 per ounce and was predicted to top $10.100 per ounce.
As the coronavirus epidemic hit the mining sector and minerals markets slowed down, the price was forced back to mid-year levels of around $8000 per ounce.
More recently though, as EV manufacturing has reawakened to a world hard-pressed to plug back into economic prosperity, rhodium’s price has rebounded – which is a bit of an understatement.
This morning an ounce of the metal cost $23 900 - and investor appetite is not slowing down either.
Boosted by global emission-free interests, EV manufacturing is pressing ahead, despite warnings by the likes of Savage that reefer-related infrastructure will not be ready to harness the full logistical potential of a greener world.