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Anticipation Builds as IFC Enters Next-Gen Phase

Anticipation is a term sewn into the very fabric of the aviation industry. It is felt by the airline waiting to receive a new aircraft ordered years earlier, by the satellite operator waiting for news of a successful launch, by a hardware manufacturer waiting for its latest technology to go through the certification process, and by the passenger contemplating how good the first cocktail will taste when sat by the pool. This same sense of anticipation has fuelled the in-flight connectivity sector for many years, driven by what has become an overcrowded value chain all working toward the goal of delivering faster and consistent on-board Wi-Fi.

It came and went with the rise and fall of Connexion by Boeing and returned with the commercial roll out of Gogo’s first generation air-to-ground (ATG) network in North America in 2008. In recent years, the sense of anticipation has really gathered momentum, thanks to speculation around new solutions like Global Xpress (GX) and Gogo’s 2Ku system, the promise of new high capacity satellites, and an influx of major upgrades to various existing networks and on-board components.

Fast-forward to today and many of the aforementioned initiatives have come to fruition causing the sense of anticipation and talk to subside. The roll out of 2Ku and GX is in full swing – 400 aircraft were installed with 2Ku in 2017 alone and the GX installed base stood at approximately 200 aircraft as of December 31st, 2017. There were notable hardware and service upgrades; Panasonic Avionics launched its next generation modem as part of a wider network upgrade; reportedly enhancing data rates to each aircraft by 20 times. Viasat released its Gen-2 IFEC system, which brings with it a vital upgrade to various hardware, and more importantly is compatible with Viasat-1, Viasat-2 and Viasat-3 satellite platforms – thus reducing the need for future upgrades. Global Eagle’s new Ka-band antenna took to the skies on board the company’s Albatross at the 2017 APEX Expo in Long Beach.

Satellite operators have also been busy; Eutelsat 172B was launched in November 2017 delivering much needed HTS capacity to the Asia Pacific region, SES has launched SES-10 (providing significant capacity expansion over Latin America), SES-15 (delivering additional Ku- and Ka-band capacity over North America, Latin America and the Caribbean) and most recently, SES-14 in January 2018 (providing Ku-band capacity over the Americas and the North Atlantic Region). Intelsat added three satellites to its Epic HTS constellation (IS-37e, IS-35e and IS-32e). Viasat launched its next-gen bird, Viasat-2, enhancing coverage over Central America and the Caribbean.

2017 will go down as a year of action rather than hype and the numbers back this up. In the last quarter of the year alone, Gogo’s active 2Ku installed base increased by 221 aircraft, Panasonic equipped an estimated 99 aircraft with its Ku-band system and GX was launched on 63 aircraft. But there was enough demand to satisfy all of the major service providers and each have played their part so far. Excluding upgrades, an estimated 263 aircraft were added to the global in-flight connectivity installed base between October 1st, 2017 and December 31st, 2017, bringing the total global connected fleet to 7,222.

So, what next? There are several challenges and opportunities on the horizon already generating anticipation in the in-flight connectivity industry. Most notably:

  1. Approval of IFC in Chinese and Indian airspace – The lifting of tight regulations in both markets will give service providers (that are able to adapt and comply with local policy) access to sizeable and, until now, untouched domestic fleets
  2. LEO and MEO constellations – The eventual roll out of LEO constellations, such as OneWeb, will add competition at the capacity ownership level, allow service providers to build constellation agnostic offerings, and create new revenue streams for hardware manufacturers.
  3. E-enablement – Airlines are slowly becoming more aware of the operational benefits associated with in-flight connectivity. To stay relevant, service providers need to go beyond delivering capacity and offer more and more value-added services that can help airlines to create insight from the vast amount of data generated in flight.
  4. Free Wi-Fi for all – Generally speaking, many airlines continue to struggle to monetise in-flight connectivity because of low take-rates; an issue directly linked to the hefty price passengers are often asked to pay for on board Wi-Fi access. Feedback from airlines suggest a paid model rarely delivers take rates above 5% – 8%, and this average hasn’t moved to the right for some time. A free service is known to increase take rates (Viasat reported a 40-50% take rate on its service with JetBlue) and thus increase exposure to ancillary revenue-driving applications within that service. But ongoing costs associated with the provision of Wi-Fi prevent many airlines from not charging for access. It is a classic chicken and egg scenario, and something must give. Today, airlines are switching to varying degrees of free business models. Singapore Airlines and Southwest are just two examples of airlines positioning free Wi-Fi as a value-added service to top-tier frequent flyers. Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Qantas (for now) and Virgin Australia are all offering free Wi-Fi on domestic services. Sponsorship is a potential channel for airlines, but only if they can demonstrate a ROI for brands which relies on improved take rates. Service providers will need to play their part and airlines are likely to select those that can facilitate the free Wi-Fi for all
  5. “Generation 2” airlines – As early adopters, many of the so called “first generation” airlines saw in-flight connectivity as a “nice to have” or simply jumped on the bandwagon because one of their close rivals did. ‘Shiny new toy syndrome’ meant fluctuation in service quality was tolerated and there was a heavy reliance placed on the service provider, which typically took responsibility for all aspects of the service. This mindset has changed, and these same airlines have emerged from the experience empowered and prepared to take on a larger role, primarily around customer touchpoints, such as dealing with technical queries. Consequently, service providers need to be adaptable, offering varying levels of service based on the airline’s needs. A one size fits all approach will not work. Linked to this point, service providers are now held much more accountable for the quality of service with significant consequences now attached to service issues.

To date, the overcrowded in-flight connectivity value chain we see today has been sustained by significant demand and an industry trying to work out the role of in-flight connectivity. But there is greater clarity today and we are entering a period of increased demand and expectation, from passengers and airlines. The factors above, combined with the emergence of new players, will shape the future in-flight connectivity value chain in the years to come, particularly at the service provision level. Those that aren’t able to adapt quickly enough to the challenges and opportunities ahead face the prospect of becoming irrelevant. You can already feel the anticipation building.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4884|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/aircraft-2104594_1280.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text]Anticipation is a term sewn into the very fabric of the aviation industry. It is felt by the airline waiting to receive a new aircraft ordered years earlier, by the satellite operator waiting for news of a successful launch, by a hardware manufacturer waiting for its latest technology to go through the certification process, and by the passenger contemplating how good the first cocktail will taste when sat by the pool. This same sense of anticipation has fuelled the in-flight connectivity sector for many years, driven by what has become an overcrowded value chain all working toward the goal of delivering faster and consistent on-board Wi-Fi. It came and went with the rise and fall of Connexion by Boeing and returned with the commercial roll out of Gogo’s first generation air-to-ground (ATG) network in North America in 2008. In recent years, the sense of anticipation has really gathered momentum, thanks to speculation around new solutions like Global Xpress (GX) and Gogo’s 2Ku system, the promise of new high capacity satellites, and an influx of major upgrades to various existing networks and on-board components. Fast-forward to today and many of the aforementioned initiatives have come to fruition causing the sense of anticipation and talk to subside. The roll out of 2Ku and GX is in full swing – 400 aircraft were installed with 2Ku in 2017 alone and the GX installed base stood at approximately 200 aircraft as of December 31st, 2017. There were notable hardware and service upgrades; Panasonic Avionics launched its next generation modem as part of a wider network upgrade; reportedly enhancing data rates to each aircraft by 20 times. Viasat released its Gen-2 IFEC system, which brings with it a vital upgrade to various hardware, and more importantly is compatible with Viasat-1, Viasat-2 and Viasat-3 satellite platforms – thus reducing the need for future upgrades. Global Eagle’s new Ka-band antenna took to the skies on board the company’s Albatross at the 2017 APEX Expo in Long Beach. Satellite operators have also been busy; Eutelsat 172B was launched in November 2017 delivering much needed HTS capacity to the Asia Pacific region, SES has launched SES-10 (providing significant capacity expansion over Latin America), SES-15 (delivering additional Ku- and Ka-band capacity over North America, Latin America and the Caribbean) and most recently, SES-14 in January 2018 (providing Ku-band capacity over the Americas and the North Atlantic Region). Intelsat added three satellites to its Epic HTS constellation (IS-37e, IS-35e and IS-32e). Viasat launched its next-gen bird, Viasat-2, enhancing coverage over Central America and the Caribbean. 2017 will go down as a year of action rather than hype and the numbers back this up. In the last quarter of the year alone, Gogo’s active 2Ku installed base increased by 221 aircraft, Panasonic equipped an estimated 99 aircraft with its Ku-band system and GX was launched on 63 aircraft. But there was enough demand to satisfy all of the major service providers and each have played their part so far. Excluding upgrades, an estimated 263 aircraft were added to the global in-flight connectivity installed base between October 1st, 2017 and December 31st, 2017, bringing the total global connected fleet to 7,222. So, what next? There are several challenges and opportunities on the horizon already generating anticipation in the in-flight connectivity industry. Most notably:
  1. Approval of IFC in Chinese and Indian airspace – The lifting of tight regulations in both markets will give service providers (that are able to adapt and comply with local policy) access to sizeable and, until now, untouched domestic fleets
  2. LEO and MEO constellations – The eventual roll out of LEO constellations, such as OneWeb, will add competition at the capacity ownership level, allow service providers to build constellation agnostic offerings, and create new revenue streams for hardware manufacturers.
  3. E-enablement – Airlines are slowly becoming more aware of the operational benefits associated with in-flight connectivity. To stay relevant, service providers need to go beyond delivering capacity and offer more and more value-added services that can help airlines to create insight from the vast amount of data generated in flight.
  4. Free Wi-Fi for all – Generally speaking, many airlines continue to struggle to monetise in-flight connectivity because of low take-rates; an issue directly linked to the hefty price passengers are often asked to pay for on board Wi-Fi access. Feedback from airlines suggest a paid model rarely delivers take rates above 5% - 8%, and this average hasn’t moved to the right for some time. A free service is known to increase take rates (Viasat reported a 40-50% take rate on its service with JetBlue) and thus increase exposure to ancillary revenue-driving applications within that service. But ongoing costs associated with the provision of Wi-Fi prevent many airlines from not charging for access. It is a classic chicken and egg scenario, and something must give. Today, airlines are switching to varying degrees of free business models. Singapore Airlines and Southwest are just two examples of airlines positioning free Wi-Fi as a value-added service to top-tier frequent flyers. Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Qantas (for now) and Virgin Australia are all offering free Wi-Fi on domestic services. Sponsorship is a potential channel for airlines, but only if they can demonstrate a ROI for brands which relies on improved take rates. Service providers will need to play their part and airlines are likely to select those that can facilitate the free Wi-Fi for all
  5. “Generation 2” airlines – As early adopters, many of the so called “first generation” airlines saw in-flight connectivity as a “nice to have” or simply jumped on the bandwagon because one of their close rivals did. ‘Shiny new toy syndrome’ meant fluctuation in service quality was tolerated and there was a heavy reliance placed on the service provider, which typically took responsibility for all aspects of the service. This mindset has changed, and these same airlines have emerged from the experience empowered and prepared to take on a larger role, primarily around customer touchpoints, such as dealing with technical queries. Consequently, service providers need to be adaptable, offering varying levels of service based on the airline’s needs. A one size fits all approach will not work. Linked to this point, service providers are now held much more accountable for the quality of service with significant consequences now attached to service issues.
To date, the overcrowded in-flight connectivity value chain we see today has been sustained by significant demand and an industry trying to work out the role of in-flight connectivity. But there is greater clarity today and we are entering a period of increased demand and expectation, from passengers and airlines. The factors above, combined with the emergence of new players, will shape the future in-flight connectivity value chain in the years to come, particularly at the service provision level. Those that aren’t able to adapt quickly enough to the challenges and opportunities ahead face the prospect of becoming irrelevant. You can already feel the anticipation building.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Salts and Battery

Recent interest in reviving mining in Cornwall, the United Kingdom, to obtain Lithium has been reported in The Memo.

A problem facing Cornwall, should the consortium discover sufficient concentrations of lithium, is that it will require large amounts of energy to extract. In Cornwall, geothermal springs are proposed to generate the energy needed. Another problem is what can be described as the law of diminishing marginal returns.

The largest share of commercial lithium, about 45%, is obtained from lithium minerals containing lithia, Li2O, such as spodumene, petalite and lepidolite. It is mined from fresh, unweathered zones in the pegmatite that are exposed in open pits. Mining is traditional drill and blast method with ore graded and stockpiled according to its mineralogical characteristics and grade, the largest producer being Talison Lithium in Greenbushes, Western Australia. This is a relatively cheap way of mining and is easily scaled up.

In Salar de Atacama, Chile, Albermarle Corporation supplied 33% of the total world supply, 43,000 metric tonnes (MT), in 2017 from brines harvested in the desert. Lesser production is on the Tibetan plateau, China (Lake Zabuye after which the mineral zabuyelite, a form of lithium carbonate, Li2CO3, is named), and in Zimbabwe, Nevada, USA, and Argentina where the water in the lithium brine is allowed to evaporate from salt pools using the sun as a power source. This takes a year or so but is very cost effective. Where so-called forced evaporation techniques are utilised, costs increase and margins for profit become squeezed.

There are other potential sources of lithium in existence. A massive deposit has been found in Sichuan, China, and has started to be exploited; Bikita Minerals in Masvingo province, Zimbabwe, is said to have a deposit of 11 million tonnes of lithium bearing ore and in Canada, significant deposits suitable for open pit mining have been found in Quebec, Ontario, and Northwest Territories.

Lithium is not an abundant mineral, but it is by no means rare, so, theoretically, there is sufficient supply to meet world current and potential future annual demand, which, by 2025 is expected to be in the region of 1 Million MT. Other minerals such as nickel and cobalt or even manufactured products such as graphene are more likely to be the constrained variables.

This implies that the current price levels for lithium are unlikely to become the norm and industry veterans speaking at the BMO Global Metals and Mining Conference in February this year predict a price plateau of less than $15 per kilogram for battery grade lithium carbonate stretching to 2025 and hold a similar outlook for lithium hydroxide.

But that is not the whole picture. Unlike gold, silver, iron, oil and coal, lithium is not really a freely-traded mineral. Indeed, most lithium trades are between a very small number of suppliers and a slightly larger pool of users. According to Macquarie Bank, just four suppliers control 85% of production. Chile’s SQM and U.S. companies, FMC Corp and Albemarle Corporation, are the three major players, all extracting lithium from salt lakes in Chile and Argentina. Albemarle Corporation also operates a brine operation in Nevada using geothermal power for evaporation. The fourth producer is the Australian Talison, which produces lithium at the Greenbushes mine in Western Australia. But it is not an independent, being 49%-owned by Albemarle Corporation and 51% by China’s Tianqi Lithium, which takes almost all the mine’s output for processing in China.

Recent rises in lithium prices, six-fold since 1980, have encouraged many miners to construct large-scale mining and production facilities such as the Altura Mining Company’s Pilgangoora project in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia. Indeed, since Chile and SQM have come to an agreement concerning increased production levels, and Bolivia’s national lithium company, Comibol, which has access to a reported 25% of the world’s resources in its 10,000 square kilometres Salar de Uyuni salt flat, the world’s largest, has started making nominal shipments of refined lithium carbonate, it may be the case that production levels match or even exceed demand. However, the political environment in Bolivia has yet to inspire interested companies to assist Comibol to develop production.

As Motley Fool says – “One key risk I see with lithium is not that supply increases and prices fall (though that is a key risk), it’s that the miners spend big on marginal expansions or poor acquisitions. If you’re going to be a long-term owner of lithium miners, their capital allocation decisions are going to prove at least as important as the growth in electric vehicles demand, even though people focus on the latter and basically ignore the former.” Thus, the great danger for production is that, as a marginal producer, it is very easily destroyed by a sudden fall in prices.

But that is still not the whole picture. On the demand side, lithium use is increasing almost exponentially. In 2015, the total demand was somewhere between 163,000 and 184,000 tonnes, 40 per cent (approximately 65,000 – 74,000 tonnes) of which went into lithium-ion batteries, ceramics and glass accounted for 25 per cent, with medicines, greases and polymers making up much of the rest. If lithium-ion batteries are to become the reservoir of energy that Tesla, and the major car manufacturers think they will, then use of lithium for energy storage will likely triple within the next decade and supply will need to rise equally. However, it is a truism that technological innovation is overestimated in the short-term and underestimated in the long-term. This is illustrated by the hype-cycle which engineers will instantly recognise as a second-order response to an impulse input.

The Hype Loop

(source: The Hype Circle – Wikipedia)

Things rarely continue as expected. Lithium-ion batteries may be an exception but it is unlikely. At the moment, lithium-ion energy storage consists of putting batteries, slightly bigger than size AA, in series. The Tesla car has roughly 8,000 of these in series packed in the car’s base, as does every other electric car manufacturer we checked. This is not a bad thing as the majority of the safety and recharging issues have been addressed and further advances are expected. Tesla’s Powerwall, which is used domestically and as grid storage in California, is a package of little batteries. Tesla, along with several others, has a solution for the problems of venting, thermal runaway and cell ageing. This is done with minimal decrease in energy density. There is also a less acknowledged issue of the multiple connection points required. Many connections with slight differential heating and cooling creates numerous failure points. Such failures are quite rare, making such systems relatively more secure than many others, but they will occur.

There are research teams all over the world searching for fixes for the various issues that need to be addressed. This includes infusing electrolytes with nano-diamonds (exquisitely small carbon particles to halt dendritic growth of short-circuit paths), or graphene balls, or even graphene-based batteries.

There is also active research continuing in all aspects of batteries, from anode, cathode, separator membranes, solid-state electrolytes allowing lithium metal anodes, safety, thermal control, packaging, to cell construction and battery management. Lithium-air (Li-O2) and Lithium-sulphur (Li-S) can achieve impressively high-energy density in theory and have again attracted much attention recently. Although zinc-air and high-temperature sodium-sulphur have been commercialised for a while, the development of rechargeable Li-O2 and Li-S batteries still have some technical barriers such as low-cycle efficiency and dendrite growth.

Though not energy dense, we have sodium-manganese salt water batteries for large storage, which are both inexpensive and safe. Flow batteries also come into the equation but are large and much less efficient (though are considered viable up to 10 MWh). Researchers, at Washington State University, are working on graphene-based sodium-ion batteries that might provide a less expensive, viable alternative to lithium-ion batteries. Sodium batteries are unable to hold as much energy, but their low cost makes them attractive for mid- to large-scale energy storage systems, such as for storing energy from solar power or wind farms.

Of course, energy storage for elimination of grid failures and fluctuations seems a given, but energy storage for moving, flying and sailing vehicles is not necessarily a necessity since wireless energy transfer may become available in decades to come. There already exist patents for Casimir Effect engines which use the virtual energy to drive space vehicles (the Cannae Drive). These are postulated as possible spaceship drives. For more earth-bound needs, power needs to be transmitted through either capacitive coupling (still largely inimical to human well-being) or resonant inductive coupling which might be possible for road-traversing vehicles (providing they stick to prescribed routes) or radiative coupling using lasers or microwaves.

The conclusion of mining lithium for enterprise purposes in Cornwall include many factors: social, political and strategic. Financial gain is not one.

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Recent interest in reviving mining in Cornwall, the United Kingdom, to obtain Lithium has been reported in The Memo. A problem facing Cornwall, should the consortium discover sufficient concentrations of lithium, is that it will require large amounts of energy to extract. In Cornwall, geothermal springs are proposed to generate the energy needed. Another problem is what can be described as the law of diminishing marginal returns. The largest share of commercial lithium, about 45%, is obtained from lithium minerals containing lithia, Li2O, such as spodumene, petalite and lepidolite. It is mined from fresh, unweathered zones in the pegmatite that are exposed in open pits. Mining is traditional drill and blast method with ore graded and stockpiled according to its mineralogical characteristics and grade, the largest producer being Talison Lithium in Greenbushes, Western Australia. This is a relatively cheap way of mining and is easily scaled up. In Salar de Atacama, Chile, Albermarle Corporation supplied 33% of the total world supply, 43,000 metric tonnes (MT), in 2017 from brines harvested in the desert. Lesser production is on the Tibetan plateau, China (Lake Zabuye after which the mineral zabuyelite, a form of lithium carbonate, Li2CO3, is named), and in Zimbabwe, Nevada, USA, and Argentina where the water in the lithium brine is allowed to evaporate from salt pools using the sun as a power source. This takes a year or so but is very cost effective. Where so-called forced evaporation techniques are utilised, costs increase and margins for profit become squeezed. There are other potential sources of lithium in existence. A massive deposit has been found in Sichuan, China, and has started to be exploited; Bikita Minerals in Masvingo province, Zimbabwe, is said to have a deposit of 11 million tonnes of lithium bearing ore and in Canada, significant deposits suitable for open pit mining have been found in Quebec, Ontario, and Northwest Territories. Lithium is not an abundant mineral, but it is by no means rare, so, theoretically, there is sufficient supply to meet world current and potential future annual demand, which, by 2025 is expected to be in the region of 1 Million MT. Other minerals such as nickel and cobalt or even manufactured products such as graphene are more likely to be the constrained variables. This implies that the current price levels for lithium are unlikely to become the norm and industry veterans speaking at the BMO Global Metals and Mining Conference in February this year predict a price plateau of less than $15 per kilogram for battery grade lithium carbonate stretching to 2025 and hold a similar outlook for lithium hydroxide. But that is not the whole picture. Unlike gold, silver, iron, oil and coal, lithium is not really a freely-traded mineral. Indeed, most lithium trades are between a very small number of suppliers and a slightly larger pool of users. According to Macquarie Bank, just four suppliers control 85% of production. Chile’s SQM and U.S. companies, FMC Corp and Albemarle Corporation, are the three major players, all extracting lithium from salt lakes in Chile and Argentina. Albemarle Corporation also operates a brine operation in Nevada using geothermal power for evaporation. The fourth producer is the Australian Talison, which produces lithium at the Greenbushes mine in Western Australia. But it is not an independent, being 49%-owned by Albemarle Corporation and 51% by China’s Tianqi Lithium, which takes almost all the mine’s output for processing in China. Recent rises in lithium prices, six-fold since 1980, have encouraged many miners to construct large-scale mining and production facilities such as the Altura Mining Company’s Pilgangoora project in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia. Indeed, since Chile and SQM have come to an agreement concerning increased production levels, and Bolivia’s national lithium company, Comibol, which has access to a reported 25% of the world’s resources in its 10,000 square kilometres Salar de Uyuni salt flat, the world’s largest, has started making nominal shipments of refined lithium carbonate, it may be the case that production levels match or even exceed demand. However, the political environment in Bolivia has yet to inspire interested companies to assist Comibol to develop production. As Motley Fool says – “One key risk I see with lithium is not that supply increases and prices fall (though that is a key risk), it’s that the miners spend big on marginal expansions or poor acquisitions. If you’re going to be a long-term owner of lithium miners, their capital allocation decisions are going to prove at least as important as the growth in electric vehicles demand, even though people focus on the latter and basically ignore the former.” Thus, the great danger for production is that, as a marginal producer, it is very easily destroyed by a sudden fall in prices. But that is still not the whole picture. On the demand side, lithium use is increasing almost exponentially. In 2015, the total demand was somewhere between 163,000 and 184,000 tonnes, 40 per cent (approximately 65,000 - 74,000 tonnes) of which went into lithium-ion batteries, ceramics and glass accounted for 25 per cent, with medicines, greases and polymers making up much of the rest. If lithium-ion batteries are to become the reservoir of energy that Tesla, and the major car manufacturers think they will, then use of lithium for energy storage will likely triple within the next decade and supply will need to rise equally. However, it is a truism that technological innovation is overestimated in the short-term and underestimated in the long-term. This is illustrated by the hype-cycle which engineers will instantly recognise as a second-order response to an impulse input. The Hype Loop (source: The Hype Circle - Wikipedia) Things rarely continue as expected. Lithium-ion batteries may be an exception but it is unlikely. At the moment, lithium-ion energy storage consists of putting batteries, slightly bigger than size AA, in series. The Tesla car has roughly 8,000 of these in series packed in the car’s base, as does every other electric car manufacturer we checked. This is not a bad thing as the majority of the safety and recharging issues have been addressed and further advances are expected. Tesla’s Powerwall, which is used domestically and as grid storage in California, is a package of little batteries. Tesla, along with several others, has a solution for the problems of venting, thermal runaway and cell ageing. This is done with minimal decrease in energy density. There is also a less acknowledged issue of the multiple connection points required. Many connections with slight differential heating and cooling creates numerous failure points. Such failures are quite rare, making such systems relatively more secure than many others, but they will occur. There are research teams all over the world searching for fixes for the various issues that need to be addressed. This includes infusing electrolytes with nano-diamonds (exquisitely small carbon particles to halt dendritic growth of short-circuit paths), or graphene balls, or even graphene-based batteries. There is also active research continuing in all aspects of batteries, from anode, cathode, separator membranes, solid-state electrolytes allowing lithium metal anodes, safety, thermal control, packaging, to cell construction and battery management. Lithium-air (Li-O2) and Lithium-sulphur (Li-S) can achieve impressively high-energy density in theory and have again attracted much attention recently. Although zinc-air and high-temperature sodium-sulphur have been commercialised for a while, the development of rechargeable Li-O2 and Li-S batteries still have some technical barriers such as low-cycle efficiency and dendrite growth. Though not energy dense, we have sodium-manganese salt water batteries for large storage, which are both inexpensive and safe. Flow batteries also come into the equation but are large and much less efficient (though are considered viable up to 10 MWh). Researchers, at Washington State University, are working on graphene-based sodium-ion batteries that might provide a less expensive, viable alternative to lithium-ion batteries. Sodium batteries are unable to hold as much energy, but their low cost makes them attractive for mid- to large-scale energy storage systems, such as for storing energy from solar power or wind farms. Of course, energy storage for elimination of grid failures and fluctuations seems a given, but energy storage for moving, flying and sailing vehicles is not necessarily a necessity since wireless energy transfer may become available in decades to come. There already exist patents for Casimir Effect engines which use the virtual energy to drive space vehicles (the Cannae Drive). These are postulated as possible spaceship drives. For more earth-bound needs, power needs to be transmitted through either capacitive coupling (still largely inimical to human well-being) or resonant inductive coupling which might be possible for road-traversing vehicles (providing they stick to prescribed routes) or radiative coupling using lasers or microwaves. The conclusion of mining lithium for enterprise purposes in Cornwall include many factors: social, political and strategic. Financial gain is not one.