From the editor
for some escapism from the dreary day-to-day news flow at the moment, we take a ride to the future in this issue’s cover story on electric cars. The growing popularity of battery-powered vehicles can shake up a number of industries in the coming decades, notably mining. Glencore estimates that 30% of all new vehicles sold globally in 2030 will be electric vehicles, up from about 1% in 2016. As it is a major player in the copper, nickel and cobalt markets – commodities that are expected to benefit massively from a boom in battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) – one can understand why the Swiss firm would be betting heavily on the rise of the electric car. (See page 37.)
Yet investors would do well to exercise some caution, especially when considering predictions from players with skin in the game.
The platinum industry – which is betting on the rise of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, as these would require more platinum than BEVs – for example only expect 5% of new vehicle sales to be of BEVs by 2025. RMB Morgan Stanley, on the other hand, expects a BEV market share of about 9% by 2025 and 16% by 2030. As the Nobel laureate Niels Bohr said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, who in his 1999 book Business @ the Speed of Thought accurately predicted the rise of the smartphone, social media, online recruiting and instant payments, among other things, last year famously predicted that wind, solar or some other renewable resource will power the majority of the world within the next 15 years. Writing in his annual letter earlier this year, Gates said he expects a clean-energy breakthrough by 2030 that will transform the lives of millions of people.
Speaking to students at Columbia University in January, Gates, who dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, said there are three promising areas where he might pursue a career if he were starting out today: artificial intelligence, the energy sector and biotechnology.
If Gates is to be believed, betting on the rise of clean energy will be the smart thing to do. Picking the specific commodity winners and losers may, however, prove to be a lot trickier.
Matter of fact
In our cover story on exchange-traded funds in the 7-20 September issue, we published a picture of Mike Brown, CEO of Nedbank, instead of Mike Brown, the CEO of etfSA. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. ■