Cars and buses exponentially expand opportunities and represent personal freedoms for individuals worldwide. As new and improved technologies continue to evolve, one element is emerging as essential to our collective automotive future—copper!
An ever-increasing global population, coupled with limited nonrenewable resources, is leading to innovative solutions and technologies across a variety of industries. Meeting the transportation needs of future generations in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way requires an increased reliance on materials and natural resources that are durable, malleable and—in the case of electric cars—capable of providing superior electrical conductivity.
Technology improvements and increased affordability are the drivers behind an anticipated surge in electric vehicle sales over the next decade, according to new research commissioned by the International Copper Association (ICA). 2016 saw two million electric vehicles globally. This number is projected to reach seven million by 2025. A key element in production, energy storage and charging infrastructure for these new vehicles is copper. While an internal combustion engine vehicle utilizes roughly 20 to 50 pounds, or 9 to 22.6 kilograms (kg) of copper, the number for a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric vehicle ranges from 85 to 180 pounds (38.5 to 81.6 kg). Not surprisingly, the number grows for buses. Add in the necessary charging infrastructure, and copper becomes a major component in the success of this newly invigorated technology.
While electric vehicles are not a new concept, their previous success was hindered by advances in internal combustion engine technology, mass production and relatively inexpensive gasoline prices. The Toyota Prius—introduced in Japan in 1997 and worldwide in 2000—helped reinvigorate the electric car market and was followed by Tesla, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. Thanks to the commercial success of these vehicles, coupled with the ability of the copper industry to supply the material crucial to batteries, wiring, and charging infrastructure, continued and expansive growth is anticipated for the electric vehicle market.