Vanadium stocks on the ASX: The Ultimate Guide

Vanadium stocks ASX
The world’s largest battery: Rongke Power’s 800MWh vanadium flow battery factory in Dalian, China.

Capable of being found naturally with a wide range of bright colours as different compounds, vanadium’s name traces back to its exotic heritage, being named after the Swedish Goddess of beauty and fertility Vanadis.

Now, however, it is investors that are belatedly finding a lot of beauty in vanadium, not for its usual role in producing high strength specialty steel alloys but as a battery ingredient that shows immense promise in providing emergency power and stabilising electricity grids around the world.

Elon Musk has shown what is possible

Elon Musk’s large lithium-ion battery plant in South Australia has shown that there is serious money to be made in stabilising the power grid by storing power when it is plentiful and cheap and discharging it during price spikes.

Experts believe vanadium flow batteries, also known as vanadium redox batteries, show even more promise in stabilising power grids in an era of waning coal generation and rising renewable energy.

While vanadium might not have a high profile entrepreneur such as Elon Musk advancing the technology like lithium batteries do, the unique properties of vanadium flow batteries are seen as being so superior that they will emerge as a strong alternative anyway.

What is vanadium?

Vanadium is a fairly scarce transition metal in nature, which is perhaps why it had a couple of false starts before finally being recognised.

Originally discovered by Andres Manuel del Rio in Mexico in 1801, what was then known as brown lead then lost recognition after Manuel was wrongly convinced by other scientists that he was actually looking at various compounds of chromium.

It was rediscovered and named in 1830 by Nils Gabriel Sefstrom but it was not until 1867 that Henry Enfield Roscoe obtained pure vanadium metal, which is hard although malleable, grey and silvery and oxidises on the surface readily, protecting the metal underneath.

Vanadium would go on to achieve world-wide fame, being used in the steel alloy chassis of the first mass produced Ford Model T to reduce weight and increase strength, as well as being used in many racing cars.

It is as an alloying agent that Vanadium is still predominantly used today, with 85 per cent of production going to make items such as axles, bicycle frames, crankshafts, gears and a wide range of high speed tool steels.

However, it is the use of vanadium in vanadium flow batteries that has really caught the attention of investors recently, pushing the price of the metal up by more than 130 per cent in the past year – a bigger price rise than for other “hot’’ battery metals such as cobalt, lithium and nickel.

The price has been driven by tight supply and strong orders from the steel industry, plus the opinion of many experts that vanadium flow batteries will eventually overtake lithium batteries for large scale uses such as grid stabilisation battery plants because of longer life and greater stability.

Vanadium also shows potential to be used in other forms of batteries, with lithium vanadium oxide a potential high energy density anode for lithium-ion batteries while vanadium phosphates could be used as a cathode in lithium vanadium phosphate batteries, another form of lithium-ion battery.

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