High Voltage: Nikola is going toe to toe with Tesla, experts reckon it’ll lose
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Each week our High Voltage column wraps all the news driving ASX battery metals stocks with exposure to lithium, cobalt, graphite, manganese and vanadium.
Experts are seriously side-eyeing the latest news from Nikola Motors about its hydrogen-electric trucks.
After patent trolling Tesla and bagging the company out for its electric semi truck claims, Nikola is claiming to have made a breakthrough battery with “a record energy density of 1,100 watt-hours per kg on the material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on the production cell level”.
This may well be the battery breakthrough they claim, but experts are looking at Nikola’s track record on delivery on promises (not great) and transferring that skepticism to the latest promise to double the range of electric vehicles without increasing battery size and weight.
Prices across the board remain, frankly, disappointing as news reports from around the world point to battery metals remaining in the doldrums.
From Chile where the world’s second-largest lithium miner Chemical and Mining Society suffers under low prices and weak demand, to China where portside manganese prices ticked up slightly but maintained their downward trend, the end of 2019 isn’t looking too sparky.
Research house Antaike says cobalt production is set to grow, but it won’t be a patch on what was dug up this year.
It forecasts cobalt product to rise by 5,000 tonnes or 3.5 per cent in 2020, on this year, but that is half of what the 2019 growth was on the year before.
However, Antaike is predicting some good news: cobalt prices in 2020 are seen to hover around $US18 ($26.49) per pound, up from $US16-16.50 per pound this year on the back of that mining pull back.
And miners beware: a Kiwi company in Taupo has found a way to get battery-grade lithium out of geothermal fluid.
Geo40 has been making money extracting silica, but is about to massively expand to get into lithium as well with a $NZ20m ($18.9m) large-scale commercial plant for silica and other metals extraction built by 2021.
It has Independence Group (ASX:IGO) CEO Peter Bradford on the board and savvy Australian investors were able to buy into Geo40 in 2017, when it raised $11m here.
Of the companies on our list, 66 lost ground, 47 were ahead and 36 were steady this week.
#1 METALSTECH (ASX:MTC) +386%
Isn’t this an indictment on battery metals right now: Metalstech shares surged last week not because of any funky lithium play, but because it’s looking at buying a gold mine in Slovakia.
It’s a historical mine that has produced 1.5m ounces of gold and 6.7m ounces of silver, and has an existing JORC measured and indicated resource of 1.01 million ounces at 2.05 grams per tonne (g/t) of gold.
The company’s plan is to use modern gold processing technology to the open pit site.
Metalstech is still looking at exploring for lithium in Canada, but is still reviewing data for the Cancet project in Quebec.
#2 ALTA ZINC (ASX:AZI) +20%
The base metals explorer was up for the week after its mining contractor, Edilmac Srl, started drilling into the Pian Bracca exploration zone of the Gorno Zinc project in Italy.
The site returned in October samples that averaged 19.1 per cent zinc, 4.4 per cent lead, and 128g/t silver from a length of 2.7m, and 39.5 per cent zinc, 9.4 per cent lead, and 128 g/t silver from 2m.
Also in the news was Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL), which is proposing a processing plant in Geraldton, much to the delight of mayor Shane Van Styn, who is eyeing the employment possibilities for his town.
The company plans to mine vanadium near Meekatharra and truck it to a processing plant it intends to build near Mullewa.
And sewer saver Calix (ASX:CLX) has built its advanced battery reactor in Bacchus Marsh, just outside Melbourne. The BATMn reactor cost $2.7m and is designed to make battery-quality metals from, for example, crushed manganese.