Copper use in electric vehicles

According to [1] in the EU 2050 scenario, electric vehicles with require 11.6 million tons of copper in the period up to 2050.

Cf [2]. a European Union of 508 million citizens with 500 cars per thousand citizens owns a car fleet of 254 million cars (2015).

Cf [3-5], car sharing and autonomous driving are expected to reduce vehicles in use by 10-90%. This is a very wide range. We will assume a 50% reduction in car ownership compared to the 2015 level, i.e. 127 million cars.

Note that passenger-km with cars are still expected to increase 20% between 2015 and 2050 according to the EU reference scenario [6]. For the same mileage per car, this makes the above 50% assumption effectively a 70% reduction.

In addition, car sharing will mean a shorter lifetime for vehicles since the same number of km will be served by less cars. Under above assumptions, we can expect vehicle lifetime to significantly decrease and hence end-of-life recovery of materials in vehicles becomes increasingly important.

According to [7], the additional copper demand for PHEV and BEV compared to ICE vehicles is:

  • PHEV: ~40 kg
  • BEV: ~ 60 kg

We expect however the copper use in batteries to reduce by 25% over the coming decades which would reduce above figures by respectively 5 and 10 kg. Hence, the average additional copper use per plugged vehicle would be 42.5 kg.

This leads to a copper requirement of 127 M * 42.5 = 5.4 M tonnes.

References

  1. Copper requirements to build a near-100% renewable electricity system in Europe
  2. Vehicle ownership in the EU (EEA)
  3. Self-driving vehicles could cut the number of cars in use by as much as 90% (EEA)
  4. Self-driving vehicles could cut US auto sales by 40% (WE Forum)
  5. Vehicles in use to reduce by 10 – 30% (Frost & Sullivan)
  6. EU reference scenario 2016 (European Commission)
  7. Electric vehicles & copper demand (Copper Alliance)

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