ZIA 2017: What will electric vehicles do for zircon demand?
Published: Friday, 29 September 2017
Attendees debate the effect of the rise of electric vehicles on demand for zirconia, which is used in brake pads.
Zircon producers are uneasily eyeing the
rise in importance of electric vehicles, with uncertainty over
how it will affect the use of the mineral in brake pads.
Speaking at the 2nd Annual
Zircon Conference in Bologna, Roberto Dante, head of the
friction team at Quartz s.r.l.s.u, told attendees that zirconia
demand would hold up, despite the switch to electric vehicles,
after a number of other attendees voiced concern.
Electric vehicles primarily rely on engine
braking. But Dante noted that these vehicles will still need to
be fitted with conventional brakes as a fall-back.
As a result, the effect of the electric
vehicle boom on zirconia demand remains unclear.
The production of new vehicles will drive
the need for brake pads, Dante said, but these brake pads will
need to be changed much less often, as the electric motor takes
up most of the braking duties.
Another key concern for demand is
substitution. Will brake pad makers continue to use zirconia if
other alternatives are available, given the recent sharp rise
Brake pad producers are wary, in
particular, of the
price volatility recently seen in zircon.
"It isn’t important if the
price is high or low," Dante said. "What is important is if the
price is stable"."
For example he noted that potassium
titanate, a potential replacement, is more expensive than
zirconia, but prices for that mineral are stable.
The boom in electric vehicles, which only
set to increase, is already pushing prices for many
industrial minerals higher.
Lithium and cobalt prices have already
seen massive increases on the back of rising battery demand, as
detailed in IM's Battery Price