The growing number of electric vehicles hitting roads is set to fuel a nine-fold increase in copper demand from the sector over the coming decade, according to an industry report on Tuesday.
Electric or hybrid cars and buses are expected to reach 27 million by 2027, up from 3 million this year, according to a report by consultancy IDTechEx, commissioned by the International Copper Association (ICA).
“Demand for electric vehicles is forecast to increase significantly over the next ten years as technology improves, the price gap with petrol cars is closed and more electric chargers are deployed,” IDTechEx Senior Technology Analyst Franco Gonzalez said in the report.
“Our research predicts this increase will raise copper demand for electric cars and buses from 185,000 tonnes in 2017 to 1.74 million tonnes in 2027,” Gonzalez said.
Electric vehicles use a substantial amount of copper in their batteries and in the windings and copper rotors used in electric motors. A single car can have up to six kilometers of copper wiring, according to the ICA.
The global market for copper is around 23.9 million tonnes, according to the International Copper Study Group.
That suggests electric vehicles could account for about 6 percent of global copper demand in ten years, according to analyst estimates, rising from less than 1 percent this year.
The electric car market is still concentrated in a limited number of countries, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last week.
Globally, 95 percent of electric car sales take place in just ten countries - China, the United States, Japan, Canada, Norway, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden - the IEA said.
Still, the IEA expects there is a “good chance” that electric vehicles in use globally could reach carmaker estimates of between 9 million and 20 million by 2020 and between 40 million and 70 million by 2025.
While cars using internal combustion engines require up to 23 kg of copper each, the ICA report found that a hybrid electric vehicle uses nearly double that amount at 40 kg of copper, and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle uses 60 kg.
Depending on the size of battery, an electric bus can use between 224 kg and 369 kg of copper.
Charging infrastructure for electric cars was another source of demand, the ICA report said.
Further out, the expected growth in vehicles that use roof-mounted solar panels would also require copper.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Tom Hogue)