The Next Big Theme: October 2021

Electric Vehicles & Cleantech

U.S. Zeroes In On Emissions From East to West

California and New York are responsible for two of the latest developments in the global effort to reduce production and use of internal combustion engine vehicles. California set a mandate for light-duty autonomous vehicles to be emission-free by 2030.1 Autonomous vehicles represent only a small percentage of California’s vehicles, but in a future where driverless taxi services are poised to thrive, this mandate could prevent a major source of pollution. On the opposite coast, New York set a goal of zero-emission passenger cars by 2035 and zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045.2

Lithium & Battery Tech

EV Revolution Charges Lithium Demand

Lithium demand is expected to outpace global supply as the economy moves toward an all-electric future. The imbalance is already pushing lithium prices meaningfully higher.3 Lithium prices hit a three-year high with sales of electric vehicles up 150% to just over 3 million units in the first seven months of the year.4 In the first half of September, domestic prices in China, the largest lithium market, increased more than 20%. With lithium-ion batteries expected to remain the primary battery technology, mining capabilities must increase. Leading lithium producer Albemarle, recently announced that it would double lithium production at its facility in Silver Peak, Nevada.5


Human Trials Progress

Excision BioTherapeutics continues to make progress on CRISPR-based gene editing to treat patients with HIV. After promising results in early trials, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the therapy for human testing.6 Gene editing has the potential to replace the standard retroviral therapy most HIV patients receive. The FDA also approved a trial that uses CRISPR genome editing to eradicate cancer cells in patients with acute myeloid leukemia.7 To treat patients with sickle cell disease, doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital are using gene therapy to activate healthy fetal genes and deactivate mutated adult genes as part of a clinical trial.8


Warehouses Wanted

New data from commercial real estate services firm CBRE confirmed a post-pandemic e-commerce trend: soaring online sales are quickly filling industrial warehouse space. In Canada, industrial vacancy rates in the Greater Montreal Area dipped to a record low of 1.2% in Q3, compared to 8% just five years ago.9 The U.S. has a similar squeeze; to match package volume, the country must add at least 330 million square feet of warehouse space dedicated to e-commerce by 2025.10 For now, in a bid to handle the package surplus, logistics provider DHL Supply Chain expects to hire 20% more seasonal workers this year.11 DHL, like many other providers, is also turning to collaborative robots to help automate order picking.

Internet of Things

Biden Launches Initiative to Secure Semiconductor Supply

The Biden administration announced a new initiative to increase transparency in the semiconductor supply chain, which remains hamstrung by the global production shortage. The shortage has inflated the prices of vehicles and other electronic goods. It even caused manufacturers to halt the production of some electronic devices in September. Tech giants such as Intel, Samsung, Apple, GM, Ford, TSMC, and Stellantis attended the President’s virtual event and pledged $75 billion to mitigate long-term supply chain deficiencies, but the hope is that the initiative helps alleviate some of the bottlenecks sooner.12 Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently claimed that new semiconductor plants in the works will effectively make the chip shortage a short-term issue.13

Social Media & Blockchain

Twitter Promotes Crypto Tips

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey views cryptocurrency as the internet’s “native currency,” so the company integrating Bitcoin on its platform is a natural fit. As part of its ongoing monetization push, Twitter announced that users will be able to send and receive tips using Bitcoin. Twitter is also looking into authenticating users’ nonfungible tokens (NFTs). Crypto continues to gain legitimacy with users attracted to its decentralized finance and blockchain technology, particularly users in developing markets. Africa is one of the fastest-growing markets for crypto with adoption increasing by a hefty 1,200% over the past year.14 Also, India made headlines as the country with the most crypto holders at 100 million, which is 7.3% of its population.15


The following charts examine returns and sales growth expectations by theme, based on their corresponding ETFs.


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