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Ninefold increase in copper demand for EVs, report says

Copper mining in Chile.

Demand could rise to 1.74 million tonnes per year by 2027

New research suggests the next decade will see copper demand for EVs increase by 900% on the back of increased uptake.

The study, commissioned by the International Copper Association (ICA) and conducted by EV technology research firm IDTechEx, proves how much the boom in vehicle electrification may disrupt current trends in global supplies.

The report – “Copper Intensity in the Electrification of Transport and the Integration of Energy Storage” – notes the extent to which copper is present in EV batteries, windings and rotors used in electric motors. A single car can have up to 6km of copper wiring, while the metal is also needed for busbars, used to connect modules and cells in battery packs, and in charging infrastructure.

A conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle may require up to 23 kg of copper, IDTechEX says, but a hybrid electric vehicle uses almost double, requiring around 40 kg. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle uses 60 kg, while a battery EV (we assume a sedan size) needs 83 kg.

Fleet vehicles too will push up demand. Hybrid electric buses will need around 89 kg, while a pure electric battery-powered bus can use 224–369 kg of copper, depending on the size of battery used.

However, this may also improve the re-use and recycling of the material. “Copper has the highest conductivity of any non-precious metal, and plays an important role in all energy production, but it is particularly important for future sustainable technology applications such as electric vehicles,” said ICA Market Analysis and Outreach Colin Bennett. “Copper increases the efficiency and reliability of these vehicles and is itself a sustainable material, as it is 100% recyclable without loss of properties.”

“The demand for electric vehicles is forecast to increase significantly over the next ten years as technology improves, the price gap with petrol cars is closed and more electric chargers are deployed,” said IDTechEx Senior Technology Analyst Franco Gonzalez, one of the co-authors. “Our research predicts this increase will raise copper demand for electric cars and buses from 185,000 tonnes in 2017 to 1.74 million tonnes in 2027. That’s a ninefold increase. On top of this, each electric vehicle charger will add 0.7 kg of copper and if they are fast chargers, they can add up to 8 kg of copper each.”

Source: IDTechEx / ICA
Source: IDTechEx / ICA

Beyond this, vehicles which incorporate their own power and charging sources, such as solar panels, may also contribute to demand growth, the authors said.

Source: International Copper Alliance

 

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