Experts from Cornell and the University of Michigan say aiming for all-electric vehicles by 2035 is a pipe dream.

Report Says Insufficient Copper Mining Threatens Future EV Projections.

In their report, “Copper Mining and Vehicle Electrification,” Professors Lawrence M. Cathles and Adam C. Simon argue that copper, a crucial mineral for EV production, is not being mined rapidly enough to sustain long-term EV sales targets.

Cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel each play crucial roles in electrification, but copper is especially vital for EV production. Used in electric motors, batteries, inverters, wiring, and charging stations, copper is prized for its excellent heat conductivity, corrosion resistance, and relatively low production cost.

According to the Copper Development Association, each electric vehicle can contain up to a mile of copper wiring. The report also highlights that manufacturing an EV requires about 132 pounds of copper, compared to just 52 pounds for a gasoline-powered vehicle.

“Copper is the most crucial mineral for our future, essential for electricity generation, distribution, and storage,” the report states. “The availability and demand for copper dictate the pace of electrification, which underpins current climate policy.”

When a pair of researchers assert that we may fall short of our domestic EV sales targets by 2035, it’s a significant concern. With federal and state climate policies banking on widespread electric vehicle adoption by 2035, and incentives driving the shift, Cathles and Simon emphasize the need for a substantial increase in copper mining.

They estimate that meeting these goals would require a staggering 115 percent more copper mining than all human history up to 2018, along with 55 percent more new mines to accommodate predicted EV production shifts.

However, discovering and permitting new copper deposits is far from straightforward. Despite the discovery of 224 copper deposits since 1990, only 16 were found in the past decade, with many permitting processes abandoned. Yet, there’s optimism; Cathles and Simon suggest that existing mines in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have the potential for expansion.

The report underscores the importance of encouraging copper exploration and mine development promptly. It calls for proactive measures from the EU and US to demonstrate responsible mining practices on their territories, showcasing a commitment to the mining industry’s significance and their willingness to contribute.

“Researchers Advocate for Realistic Shift from 100% EVs to 100% Hybrid Vehicles by 2035”

In conclusion, the researchers suggest that federal, state, and automaker strategies need adjustment to align with feasible material availability. Rather than striving for 100 percent EV production and sales by 2035, transitioning to 100 percent hybrid electric vehicles appears wiser, given the substantial copper demand for battery electric models.

“Hybrid electric vehicles could yield a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and urban pollution, with a higher probability of securing the necessary copper for manufacturing,” the report states. “While not perfect, this approach is considerably more resource-conscious.”

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  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...