BHP, which has looked closely at EV-related demand, estimates that an average battery-powered EV will contain 80 kilograms of copper, four times as much as an internal-combustion engine. This is split between the engine (the largest share), the battery and the wiring harness. It forecasts that by 2035 there could be 140m EVs on the road (8% of the global fleet), versus 1m today. Manufacturing them could require at least 8.5m tonnes a year of additional copper, or about a third extra on top of today’s total global copper demand.
According to Sanford C. Bernstein, which uses a bold estimate that almost all new cars will be electric by 2035, global copper supplies would need to double to meet demand by then. Finding and digging up all the metals that stand to benefit, plus new smelting and refining capacity, could require up to $1trn in new investment by mining companies, it says. Hunter Hillcoat of Investec, a bank, says the transition could require the addition of a copper mine the size of Chile’s Escondida, the world’s biggest, every year.