April 9th, 2022 | 07:22 CEST
The next e-car revolution: Volkswagen, Altech Advanced Materials, BYD
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"[...] Nickel, therefore, benefits twice: firstly from its growing importance within batteries and secondly from the generally growing demand for such storage. [...]" Terry Lynch, CEO, Power Nickel
Volkswagen: Already the world market leader in sustainability PR
In recent years, the German car company Volkswagen has transformed itself from Saul to Paul. First the diesel scandal, now the e-car offensive. The manipulation scandal may have been a shot across the bow for VW at the right time - albeit a rather expensive one. Today, VW is committed to sustainability and wants to reconcile environmental and social issues with economic success. That includes the decarbonization of the Company and the sustainable design of the supply chains. Thanks to VW's market power, the latter should also have a signal effect on smaller suppliers.
VW does not want to dictate new standards but rather develop them with partners on an equal footing and live them transparently. It remains to be seen to what extent these fine-sounding words will completely rule out the possibility of non-sustainably mined metals ending up in a battery. However, the longer Volkswagen aggressively promotes these values, the less likely such missteps by partners will be. This approach also benefits the Company's image - Volkswagen is already viewed much more positively than it was years ago. Nevertheless, Volkswagen's ordinary shares fell sharply last year - by almost 27%. Warm words do not yet ensure good share prices. In particular, expensive energy prices and supply chain problems are likely to have had a negative impact on VW in recent weeks.
Altech Advanced Materials: Up to 100% increase in battery performance
Things were not so rosy for the Altech share either. However, a loss of 3.5% in three months is likely to be due to disinterest rather than selling pressure. Altech Advanced Materials' mission is to improve batteries in electric cars. "We have successfully developed a process to coat anode material very thinly with aluminum oxide, i.e. ceramics, and expect this to improve safety and increase battery performance and service life," Altech director Uwe Ahrens said in an interview. If Altech succeeds in increasing the proportion of silicon on the anode, the Heidelberg-based Company expects to make performance increases of 50 to 100% possible in batteries for electric cars. However, in practice, the batteries would likely not run significantly longer but become smaller and lighter.
The Company is planning a pilot plant in Schwarze Pumpe in Saxony to produce the anode material and make it available to the industry. Altech believes it can convince potential customers with the prototypes. The site in Saxony alone is one of many up-and-coming green mobility projects in central and eastern Germany. Ahrens sees flexibility as crucial to the Company's success: "However, we have the great advantage that we can change many properties and are particularly flexible. I cannot go into the technical details because that is what Altech's recipe for success is all about, but abstractly speaking, I believe that we can play out major advantages over the competition due to the purity of our basic materials and the control options in the manufacturing process," says Ahrens. The stock is currently bobbing along while the Company moves forward step by step. The research portal researchanalyst.com dedicated a comprehensive article to Altech six weeks ago.
BYD: Good technology, encouragement from the market, but...
The BYD share has been popular among investors for years. Having started as a battery manufacturer, BYD now produces cars with long ranges, batteries for power storage, its own chips and more. This self-sufficiency, coupled with access to raw materials, created a jubilant mood among investors. But can BYD also convince customers? A study by consultants Capgemini shows that 34% of Germans surveyed would switch brands for sustainability reasons. If top dogs like VW are already reporting extensively and in warm words about their sustainable mission, it will be difficult for newcomers like BYD. In addition, the Chinese have not yet launched a sustainability offensive - at least not in the media. BYD's decision not to use cobalt in many battery systems and its advanced technology are arguments in its favor. Despite the recent losses, the share price is still 45% higher than a year ago.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen to what extent BYD will also be able to convince in markets outside China. Here, brands like Volkswagen have a better reputation and are also catching up with electromobility. Innovative suppliers such as Altech Advanced Materials could be the smiling third party. Those who make batteries better and smaller and are also flexible always have good arguments - whether in negotiations with companies from China or Europe.
Conflict of interest
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