Mining giant BHP hops on EV bandwagon

Company aims to address growing trends in automotive by catering to the battery side of the electric vehicle equation.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Aug. 9, 2017 at 6:25 AM
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Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Australian mining and energy company BHP Billiton said it was investing tens of millions of dollars on a nickel sulphate operation to get on the EV bandwagon.

Eduard Haegel, the company's president in charge of operations at its Nickel West mining operation, said BHP would capitalize on the growing need for minerals needed to produce batteries for electric vehicles. Identified once as a non-core asset, the company said it was shifting gears toward the production of sulphates in a multi-million dollar overhaul.

Pointing to statements from the head of Swedish automaker Volvo, who heralded "the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car," BHP outlined its plans to capitalize on the trend at a regional energy conference.

"We see huge potential in electric vehicles," the company said.

Two million electric vehicles were on the road globally last year, though nearly all of those were in China, the European Union and the United States. Last week, Beijing said it would expand the number of electric vehicles in the public transportation sector. In Germany, energy company E.ON said it would place an ultra-fast charging station at a motorway between Frankfurt and Nuremberg.

Meanwhile, the British and French governments said they'd work toward a benchmark of banning the sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its roads beginning in 2040. Volvo recently said it was marking an end to the era where its consumer fleet has vehicles powered only by the internal combustion engine. All vehicles launched from 2019 will have an electric motor.

With the pace accelerating, however, the International Monetary Fund warned the automotive industry itself would need swift and major changes to keep up. BHP said nickel sulphate was a "good fit" for its Nickel West operation because of its well-developed process systems, good pilot trials and existing infrastructure.

"Nickel-rich batteries are preferred due to their superior energy density and increased vehicle range," the company explained.

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