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PLATINUM, FUEL CELLS, AND FUTURE ROAD TRANSPORT
Borgwardt*, R H. PLATINUM, FUEL CELLS, AND FUTURE ROAD TRANSPORT. TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH. Pergamon/Elsevier, Part D 6(3):199-207, (2001).
A vehicle powered by a fuel cell will emit virtually no air polution and, depending on fuel choice, can substantially improve fuel economy above that of current technology. Those attributes are complementary to issues of increasing national importance including the effects of transportation on the environment, energy security, and global climate change. From the national perspective, the full benfits offered bu fuel cell vehicles will be achieved only if a large fraction of the existing fleet are replaced with the new technology. The magnitude of the benefit to the Nation will, in addition, depend on the amount of time required for that transition to be completed. This paper examines the constraints on the displacement rate imposed by the limited availability of platinum needed as a component of fuel cells. It concludes that a transition period as short as 31 years is not feasible. Under the most favorable circumstances, a complete transition of the U.S. fleet to this new technology would require about 66 years and 10,800 net metric tons of platinum. Platinum demand for the U.S. auto industry alone would amount to 48% of world production during much of that transition period. The effect of that demand on the price of platinum would add to the the problem of reducing vehicle cost to a competitive range. If U.S. platinum consumption were to remain at its current level of 16% of annual world production, fleet conversion would require 146 years. These resultds imply that, without alternative catalysts, fuel cells alone cannot adequately address the issues facing the current system of road transport.