The energy transition is in progress!

Today, the energy transition is well in progress in the EU. Tens of GW of wind and solar PV capacity are added every year. Transmission grids are being extended. We’re investing in energy efficiency. Buildings are getting smarter. The transport fleet is electrifying. We have 11 million heat pumps in Europe. As a result, we estimate that the energy transition has already added well almost 2 million tonnes of copper in use, and is adding about 300 kilotonnes per year: Continue reading The energy transition is in progress!

Copper needed for the electrification to trucks

According to an ECI internal study, commissioned with Fraunhofer-i4e, the following demand for copper in truck due to electrification could be expected:


Segment Unit sales in 2025 % alternative Copper needs
Small trucks 2130 k 26-40% 66 ktons
Medium trucks 111 k 20% 5 ktons
Large trucks 405 k 10% 16 ktons
Total 2646 k 87 ktons

Extrapollating these figures to a hypothetical full conversion to electromobility yields:

Segment Copper needs Mutliplication factor Maximum copper needs
Small trucks 66 ktons 2.5 165 ktons
Medium trucks 5 ktons 5.0 25 ktons
Large trucks 16 ktons 10.0 160 ktons
Total 350 ktons

There are 13 million trucks on the EU’s roads (i.e. 5 times the annual market). The maximum copper needs to electrify 100% of the truck fleet is 350 * 5 = 1750 ktons.

In practice, alternatives to electrification of goods transport will also play their part. In addition, the sharing economy may lead to less consumption, more local consumption and hence less goods transport. A realistic scenario will reduce this figure at least by half, to 875 ktons.

Copper in busses & charging infrastructure for busses

According to [1], there are 1.63 busses per 1000 citizens in the EU, leading to 828,000 busses for EU’s 508 million citizens. This estimate is not far from DecarbEurope’s number [2].

According to [3], copper use in electric busses is over 350 kg/unit. We assume that 2 thirds of the copper content is due to electrification, i.e. 230 kg.

Considering CAPEX parity for electric buses well before 2050 [4], we can expect the fleet to fully electrify, leading to a copper demand of 190,000 tonnes.

Bus charging stations need 224 – 369 kg per unit, leading to another demand of 185,000 – 305,000 tonnes (average 245,000 tonnes).

Hence, the total copper demand to electrify the bus fleet is 435,000 tonnes.

  1. Vehicles in the EU (EEA)
  2. 893,000 busses in circulation (DecarbEurope)
  3. Electric vehicles & copper demand (Copper Alliance)
  4. Analysis of the potential for electric buses (Copper Alliance / VUB Mobi)
  5. EN-V mobility concept (General Motors)


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.


  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)