Big Developments in the Electric Vehicle World Mean Increased Demand for Copper

Big Developments in the Electric Vehicle World Mean Increased Demand for Copper
19 Jul 2017

Electric vehicles are helping drive a cleaner, more energy efficient future. The new and highly anticipated all-electric Tesla Model 3, planned on being the first mass-market and more widely available Tesla vehicle, was unveiled by CEO Elon Musk in early July on social media to much excitement. The Model 3 will begin to roll off the production lines in the coming months.

Although Tesla can be credited as the first automaker to make EVs “sexy” and stylish, it is no longer the only major player in the push for electric cars.

Nissan Leaf electric vehicle cross section

Swedish car manufacturing giant Volvo also had a major announcement in early July: as of 2019, all of its cars will be hybrid or electric vehicles and it will stop manufacturing internal combustion engine vehicles.

Even still, Volvo isn’t alone.

In May, Mercedes-Benz broke ground on a new $560 million electric car battery plant in eastern Germany, representing only a fraction of the $11 billion the German manufacturer has budgeted for EV development over the next 5 years. It plans on releasing 10 new purely-electric cars by 2022.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that “nearly all global vehicle makers are mounting their own electric-car push, powered by ever-cheaper prices for batteries, stricter emissions rules and lucrative government incentives for customers.”

News of the trend towards electric cars only gets better, as France has announced that the sale of gas and diesel cars will end by 2040. This New York Times article points out that while not as ambitious a goal as Norway or India’s vow to end the sale by 2025 and 2030, respectively, the objective is clear: reduce emissions by becoming less reliant on fossil fuels and integrate more electric vehicles.

Great news for EVs, but what does it have to do with copper?

Detail of copper winding and stack of an electric induction motor for home appliances. Selective focus.

Because of copper’s durability, malleability, reliability, and superior electrical conductivity, its usage in increasing performance and efficiency in electrical components is widespread; it’s no surprise that the metal is used abundantly in electric vehicles.

Copper is a crucial and essential element, used not only in the electric motors, batteries, inverters, and wiring of EVs, but also in the multitudes of charging stations that will have to be installed to keep up with the increasing numbers of EVs that are soon to be hitting the roads.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) use over five times more copper than conventional combustion engine vehicles; about 189 lbs. on average.  Additionally, a pure electric vehicle can contain more than a mile of copper wiring in its stator windings. Even hybrid-electric vehicles use about 89 lbs. of copper, while a battery electric bus uses a whopping 814 lbs. of copper. The demand for copper due to electric vehicles is expected to increase by 1,700 kilotons by 2027.

With all of these new developments, it’s becoming clear that electric vehicles are here to stay and seem poised to overtake conventional automobiles in the near future. Simply stated, more electric cars means more copper use, showing a very positive future for the copper industry with a fast growing, sustainable technology.

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