According to studies by IDTechEx (2020), the introduction of electric traction motors in road vehicles will lead to a significant increase in copper demand in the next ten years. The study, commissioned by the International Copper Association (ICA), shows that by 2030, more than 250,000 tons of copper will be used per year as part of the windings in electric traction motors in electric vehicles on the road.
The global investigation showed a significant increase in copper demand as the international car markets are progressing towards an ever increasing electrification. The copper intensity fluctuates between the different types of electric traction motors; the vast majority use copper. Motors will therefore be an important area of application for copper in the next ten years.
Motors increase copper usage
On average, an electric vehicle contains almost three times as much copper as a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. The lithium-ion accumulator alone consists of around 18% copper, since the cathode is always made of aluminum and the anode is made of copper as the carrier material.
The greatest increase in copper consumption is to be expected in the area of the components newly added to electrified vehicles - drive energy storage, electric motor, high-voltage electrical system, power electronics, etc. Although the copper content in the different types of electric traction motors is quite different, copper is used in the vast majority of motors: three-phase asynchronous motors (ACIM) and electrically excited synchronous motors (WRSM) have a higher copper content because copper is in both the stator as well as in the rotor.
The increase in copper demand thus follows the development of the global automotive market, in which purely battery-electric cars are likely to achieve the largest market share gain at the expense of internal combustion engines and hybrid vehicles. By 2030, the share of electric and plug-in hybrid cars will make up around 19 percent of the total market and is expected to increase to 72 percent by 2040.
Even if the demand for various electric traction motors changes, copper will remain a fundamental material for the global automotive market in the coming years.
Demand is met
Contrary to all fears, the availability of the metal is secured in the long term: At present, worldwide copper reserves are estimated at 830 million tons (US Geological Survey [USGS], 2019), and the annual copper requirement is 28 million tons.
USGS data suggests that, since 1950, an average of 40 years of copper and over 200 years of resources have been available, including reserves, discovered and potentially profitable deposits, and undiscovered deposits that have been predicted based on preliminary geological surveys. These copper resources total 5,000 million tons (USGS, 2014 & 2017). In addition, around 35 percent of global demand is already met with recycled copper - and the trend is rising. A shortage of copper and thus a slowing down of e-mobility is therefore not to be feared.
To view related graphs from the study, please view the original press file HERE.