- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

While William Kovacs introduces several valid points surrounding the climate-change debate in his recent commentary “Why CO2 mandates won’t work,” his reference to platinum supply as an obstacle to fuel cell development is simply incorrect.

Although the industry does believe that the current amount and price of platinum are too high for mass production of the proton exchange membrane fuel cell — the type of fuel cell being considered for automobile drive lines and residential use — technological advances will drastically lower the platinum requirement necessary for fuel cells.

Nissan, for example, which currently uses 80 to 100 grams of platinum as a catalyst in its 70 to 75-kilowatt fuel cell, expects to halve these loadings in the very near future. Other automobile manufacturers, as well as member companies of the International Platinum Association, also have similar goals of reducing platinum levels down to 15 grams per-kilowatt engine. The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced an even more ambitious goal to push technological advances that will help reduce the amount of platinum to 12.6 grams for a 70-kilowatt engine by 2015.

Furthermore, the world’s leading platinum group metals miners, producers and fabricators confirm that global resources are sufficient to meet expected future demand for platinum for fuel cell development.According to a South African study published in November 1999, “The Platinum and Palladium Resources of the Bushveld Complex” by R. Grant Cawthorn of Witwatersrand University in South Africa, the estimated reserves of platinum worldwide are on the order of 1.5 billion troy ounces (to a mining depth of 2 km).The conclusions of this study have been broadly confirmed by statistics released by the U.S. Geological Survey, which were published in January 2000.

Another important consideration is that platinum is highly recyclable — with up to 96 percent of the metals recoverable in the recycling process. In catalytic converters, the recovered metal is now equivalent to more than one-third of the platinum used in new autocatalyst the world’s leading platinum group metals miners, producers and fabricators confirm that global resources are sufficient to meet expected future demand of platinum for fuel-cell development. As fuel cell cars, which require no exhaust emission catalyst, replace internal combustion engines, the refining of platinum from scrapped catalytic converters will continue to contribute to availability.

It’s easy to see where these erroneous perceptions originate: “Platinum” often connotes expense and scarcity. While it is true that platinum is considered the most precious of the precious metals, the benefits of using platinum-based fuel cells could reduce the quantity of fuel needed by an automobile by around half, substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.And, when fueled with hydrogen from renewable sources, fuel cells will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions throughout the fuel cycle.It is certainly true that “a little platinum goes a long way.”

Marcus Nurdin is the managing director of the International Platinum Association.

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