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 30% reduction in car ownership compared to the 2015 level, i.e. 178 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 30% assumption effectively a 50% 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 decrease from 15 years to 7.5 years average, 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 178 M * 42.5 = 7.6 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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