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The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns

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The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns

If for some reason, you still think that the commodity markets are predictable, today’s chart provides a nice piece of humble pie.

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns, which comes to us annually from our friends at U.S. Global Investors, shows the returns of commodities over each year of the past decade.

As you may have guessed, commodities are a volatile asset class – and as a result, their respective rankings fluctuate wildly each year, making things really interesting for any observer.

The Year in Review

In 2017, we experienced the second full year of recovery from the collapse of commodities that plagued the dreaded stretch from 2011 to 2015.

Aside from natural gas (-20.7%), commodities were basically up across the board. The graphic, which focuses mostly on major commodity markets, has palladium (56.3%), aluminum (32.4%), coal (31.2%), copper (30.5%), and zinc (30.5%) as the big winners over the last year.

It’s worth mentioning that some smaller markets are not included on the table – and battery metals like cobalt (133%) also did exceptionally well in 2017.

Deeper Digging

If you are not yet thoroughly geeked out, there is an interactive version of this graphic as well. It allows you to sort by category, performance, or volatility.

Surprisingly, the least volatile substance on the table is gold:

Gold volatility

While the gold market has been eerily quiet as of late, this is unexpected. That’s because, at least compared to other financial assets like bonds or stocks, gold has quite the reputation for being volatile and risky.

But, when compared to other commodities, gold actually appears relatively tame.

What Real Volatility Looks Like

Here are the charts for natural gas and coal, each which much better represent a Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde relationship.

Natural gas volatility

Natural gas is in weird place.

It’s a better alternative than coal or oil for emissions, but it’s still a fossil fuel. This, along with the natural ebbs and flows of the oil and gas markets, have made gas particularly volatile over the last few years.

Coal volatility

Of course, coal is falling out of favor in the long-term global energy mix – but that doesn’t mean it can’t get a shot in the arm from Chinese or Indian demand in the short term.

As a result, coal is all over the map on the Periodic Table of Commodity Returns, as well.

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Automotive

How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

It is counterintuitive, but electric vehicles are not possible without oil – these petrochemicals bring down the weight of cars to make EVs possible.

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How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

When most people think about oil and natural gas, the first thing that comes to mind is the gas in the tank of their car. But there is actually much more to oil’s role, than meets the eye…

Oil, along with natural gas, has hundreds of different uses in a modern vehicle through petrochemicals.

Today’s infographic comes to us from American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, and covers why oil is a critical material in making the EV revolution possible.

Pliable Properties

It turns out the many everyday materials we rely on from synthetic rubber to plastics to lubricants all come from petrochemicals.

The use of various polymers and plastics has several advantages for manufacturers and consumers:

  1. Lightweight
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Plentiful
  4. Easy to Shape
  5. Durable
  6. Flame Retardant

Today, plastics can make up to 50% of a vehicle’s volume but only 10% of its weight. These plastics can be as strong as steel, but light enough to save on fuel and still maintain structural integrity.

This was not always the case, as oil’s use has evolved and grown over time.

Not Your Granddaddy’s Caddy

Plastics were not always a critical material in auto manufacturing industry, but over time plastics such as polypropylene and polyurethane became indispensable in the production of cars.

Rolls Royce was one of the first car manufacturers to boast about the use of plastics in its car interior. Over time, plastics have evolved into a critical material for reducing the overall weight of vehicles, allowing for more power and conveniences.

Timeline:

  • 1916
    Rolls Royce uses phenol formaldehyde resin in its car interiors
  • 1941
    Henry Ford experiments with an “all-plastic” car
  • 1960
    About 20 lbs. of plastics is used in the average car
  • 1970
    Manufacturers begin using plastic for interior decorations
  • 1980
    Headlights, bumpers, fenders and tailgates become plastic
  • 2000
    Engineered polymers first appear in semi-structural parts of the vehicle
  • Present
    The average car uses over 1000 plastic parts

Electric Dreams: Petrochemicals for EV Innovation

Plastics and other materials made using petrochemicals make vehicles more efficient by reducing a vehicle’s weight, and this comes at a very reasonable cost.

For every 10% in weight reduction, the fuel economy of a car improves roughly 5% to 7%. EV’s need to achieve weight reductions because the battery packs that power them can weigh over 1000 lbs, requiring more power.

Today, plastics and polymers are used for hundreds of individual parts in an electric vehicle.

Oil and the EV Future

Oil is most known as a source of fuel, but petrochemicals also have many other useful physical properties.

In fact, petrochemicals will play a critical role in the mass adoption of electric vehicles by reducing their weight and improving their ranges and efficiency. In According to IHS Chemical, the average car will use 775 lbs of plastic by 2020.

Although it seems counterintuitive, petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas make the major advancements by today’s EVs possible – and the continued use of petrochemicals will mean that both EVS and traditional vehicles will become even lighter, faster, and more efficient.

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Batteries

Animation: The Entire History of Tesla in 5 Minutes

Everything you need to know about the history of Tesla, including Elon Musk’s vision for the future of the iconic electric car company.

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How did Tesla accelerate from 0-60 mph in such a short period of time?

Today’s five-minute-long animation is presented in association with Global Energy Metals, and it tells you everything you need to know about the history of Tesla, including Elon Musk’s vision for the future of the iconic electric car company.

Watch the video:

The video primarily keys in on Tesla’s successes and the setbacks the company has faced along the way – it also shows that Tesla was able to pass Ford in market value just seven years after the company’s IPO.

The Rise of Tesla Series

The above video is the culmination of our Rise of Tesla Series, which also includes three full-length infographics that tell a more in-depth story about the history of Tesla, and what the company aspires to:

1. Tesla’s Origin Story (View infographic)

  • What was the vision behind the founding of Tesla?
  • Early hurdles faced by the company, including its near escape from the brink of bankruptcy
  • Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, and the dramatic actions taken to keep it alive
  • A timeline showing the development of the Roadster, and why this first car matters

2. Tesla’s Journey: How it Passed Ford in Value (View Infographic)

  • The company’s plan to parlay the Roadster’s success into a viable long-term company strategy
  • Introducing the Tesla Model S and Model X
  • How the company would use the Gigafactory concept to bring economies of scale to battery production
  • Other milestones: Powerwall, Autopilot, and Tesla’s growing Supercharger network
  • The announcement of the Model 3

3. Elon Musk’s Vision for the Future of Tesla (View Infographic)

  • Detailing Tesla’s ambitions for the future, including how it plans to productize the factory
  • Other vehicles Tesla plans to release, including the Tesla Semi and a future ultra low cost model
  • How Tesla plans to combine fully autonomous cars with the future sharing economy
  • Exploding demand for lithium-ion batteries, and why Tesla is planning on building additional Gigafactories

Part 1: TeslaPart 2: From IPO and OnwardsVisualizing Elon Musk

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