Copper Makes Electric Cars Efficient and Eco-Friendly
September 19, 2017

By Zolaikha Strong

Director of Sustainable Energy for CDA

Electric vehicles are not only great for the environment, they are a thrill to drive. As auto manufacturers like Tesla and BMW continue to innovate and improve the electric car experience, one constant continues to make these vehicles run proficiently and powerfully: copper. Copper makes up some of the most important parts of an electric vehicle’s components. It is found in the motor, wiring, and the computer chips that help these cars operate and improve performance.  It is even found in the vehicle charging stations themselves, where the wiring inside is all copper. According to Copper Matters, there are on average about 50 pounds of copper in any given electrical vehicle, with the Toyota Prius using 64 pounds of copper per car. In fact, analysts predict that electric vehicles will be the driving force behind increased copper demand, not oil. However, don’t assume that the increase in copper use will damage the environment: copper is 100 percent recyclable and uses a low amount of resources in the refining process.

Electric vehicles were originally introduced to help combat the CO2 emissions that gasoline-powered vehicles generate, as well as to help decrease humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels. At first, only die-hard environmentalists were purchasing these cars, because they did not perform to the level of regular vehicles. On top of that, the electric cars were not truly CO2-free, as the charging methods still involved a power plant for electricity. Recently, developments have been made to allow vehicles to be charged by solar or wind power (in which copper plays a big part) creating a truly CO2-free vehicle. With an average gasoline-powered car producing 6 tons of CO2 per year, electric vehicles are an important step toward sustainability for our planet.

In today’s environmentally-conscious world, copper – with its energy-efficiency and recyclability – is more desirable than ever. The copper used to power electric vehicles reliably and efficiently is virtually 100 percent recyclable. Copper is also more efficient than other metals, because it is a better thermal conductor and is more resistant to corrosion and other maladies that befall precious metals. This means that once these vehicles meet their end of life, they can be salvaged and used toward a new generation of electric vehicles, all while protecting our environment. Lean more about copper being the ‘energy-efficient metal.’

As gasoline gets more expensive and less abundant, more and more consumers are turning to electric vehicles. Manufacturers of these vehicles are recognizing this shift and are developing a number of electric vehicles to match the needs of these new consumers. As countries like China, Japan, Norway, and Germany match the United States and Canada’s desire for electric vehicles, one thing is clear: it’s going to take a lot of copper to make these vehicles run.