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Toyota has developed a new catalytic converter that uses 20 percent less precious metal than previous assemblies, according to a company press release. The new catalyst also employs 20 percent less alloy by volume, all while adhering to industry standards for gas purification. Although a groundbreaking development for both automotive manufacturers and environmentalists, the new fixture may pose problems for the precious metals market. Why?
Essential alloys such as platinum, palladium and recently resurgent rhodium derive their much of their value from the sector, as carmakers drive the demand for these metals, Mining.com reported. For example, an estimated 75 percent of palladium is used in vehicle assembly plants, most of it going to catalytic converters. The same goes for rhodium, with 85 percent of total global yield going to car makers. Should the new lightweight catalyst take off, demand for these substances will surely fall and with it, prices.
"Carmakers drive the demand for metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium."
Even so, precious metals analysts suspect it will take some time for the fixture to catch on, as industry-wide adoption would require the rejiggering of long-established operational workflows. On top of that, Toyota and Denso Corporation, the Japanese parts manufacturer that fabricated the catalytic converter, have yet to decide how to distribute the fixture, according to Forbes contributor and automotive industry insider Bertel Schmitt.
While Toyota's new discovery could damage the precious metals market, another internal initiative is poised to provide relief. The Japanese automaker has been as the center of the hydrogen car movement for some time and released the first commercially available hydrogen vehicle back in 2015. These cars are good for the alloy industry, as they employ hydrogen fuel cells that require an ounce of platinum each. Toyota's commitment to hydrogen vehicles could catalyzed further adoption and give miners somewhere else to put their platinum group metal yields.