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The Raw Materials That Fuel the Green Revolution

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The Raw Materials That Fuel the Green Revolution

The Raw Materials That Fuel the Green Revolution

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

Records for renewable energy consumption were smashed around the world in 2017.

Looking at national and state grids, progress has been extremely impressive. In Costa Rica, for example, renewable energy supplied five million people with all of their electricity needs for a stretch of 300 consecutive days. Meanwhile, the U.K. broke 13 green energy records in 2017 alone, and California’s largest grid operator announced it got 67.2% of its energy from renewables (excluding hydro) on May 13, 2017.

The corporate front is also looking promising, and Google has led the way by buying 536 MW of wind power to offset 100% of the company’s electricity usage. This makes the tech giant the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable energy on the planet.

But while these examples are plentiful, this progress is only the tip of the iceberg – and green energy still represents a small but rapidly growing segment. For a full green shift to occur, we’ll need to 10x what we’re currently sourcing from renewables.

To do this, we will need to procure massive amounts of natural resources – they just won’t be the fossil fuels that we’re used to.

Green Metals Required

Today’s infographic comes from Cambridge House as a part of the lead-up to their flagship conference, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018.

A major theme of the conference is sustainable energy – and the math indeed makes it clear that to fully transition to a green economy, we’ll need vast amounts of metals like copper, silicon, aluminum, lithium, cobalt, rare earths, and silver.

These metals and minerals are needed to generate, store, and distribute green energy. Without them, the reality is that technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries, nuclear reactors, and electric vehicles are simply not possible.

First Principles

How do you get a Tesla to drive over 300 miles (480 km) on just one charge?

Here’s what you need: a lightweight body, a powerful electric motor, a cutting-edge battery that can store energy efficiently, and a lot of engineering prowess.

Putting the engineering aside, all of these things need special metals to work. For the lightweight body, aluminum is being substituted in for steel. For the electric motor, Tesla is using AC induction motors (Model S and X) that require large amounts of copper and aluminum. Meanwhile, Chevy Bolts and soon Tesla will use permanent magnet motors (in the Model 3) that use rare earths like neodymium, dysprosium, and praseodymium.

The batteries, as we’ve shown in our five-part Battery Series, are a whole other supply chain challenge. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs need lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and many other metals or minerals to function. Each Tesla battery, by the way, weighs about 1,200 lbs (540 kg) and makes up 25% the total mass of the car.

While EVs are a topic we’ve studied in depth, the same principles apply for solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, grid-scale energy storage solutions, or anything else we need to secure a sustainable future. Solar panels need silicon and silver, while wind turbines need rare earths, steel, and aluminum.

Even nuclear, which is the safest energy type by deaths per TWh and generates barely any emissions, needs uranium in order to generate power.

The Pace of Progress

The green revolution is happening at a breakneck speed – and new records will continue to be set each year.

Over $200 billion was invested into renewables in 2016, and more net renewable capacity was added than coal and gas put together:

Power TypeNet Global Capacity Added (2016)
Renewable (excl. large hydro)138 GW
Coal54 GW
Gas37 GW
Large hydro15 GW
Nuclear10 GW
Other flexible capacity5 GW

The numbers suggest that this is the only start of the green revolution.

However, to fully work our way off of fossil fuels, we will need to procure large amounts of the metals that make sustainable energy possible.

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Batteries

Animation: The Entire History of Tesla in 5 Minutes

Everything you need to know about the history of Tesla, including Elon Musk’s vision for the future of the iconic electric car company.

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How did Tesla accelerate from 0-60 mph in such a short period of time?

Today’s five-minute-long animation is presented in association with Global Energy Metals, and it tells you everything you need to know about the history of Tesla, including Elon Musk’s vision for the future of the iconic electric car company.

Watch the video:

The video primarily keys in on Tesla’s successes and the setbacks the company has faced along the way – it also shows that Tesla was able to pass Ford in market value just seven years after the company’s IPO.

The Rise of Tesla Series

The above video is the culmination of our Rise of Tesla Series, which also includes three full-length infographics that tell a more in-depth story about the history of Tesla, and what the company aspires to:

1. Tesla’s Origin Story (View infographic)

  • What was the vision behind the founding of Tesla?
  • Early hurdles faced by the company, including its near escape from the brink of bankruptcy
  • Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, and the dramatic actions taken to keep it alive
  • A timeline showing the development of the Roadster, and why this first car matters

2. Tesla’s Journey: How it Passed Ford in Value (View Infographic)

  • The company’s plan to parlay the Roadster’s success into a viable long-term company strategy
  • Introducing the Tesla Model S and Model X
  • How the company would use the Gigafactory concept to bring economies of scale to battery production
  • Other milestones: Powerwall, Autopilot, and Tesla’s growing Supercharger network
  • The announcement of the Model 3

3. Elon Musk’s Vision for the Future of Tesla (View Infographic)

  • Detailing Tesla’s ambitions for the future, including how it plans to productize the factory
  • Other vehicles Tesla plans to release, including the Tesla Semi and a future ultra low cost model
  • How Tesla plans to combine fully autonomous cars with the future sharing economy
  • Exploding demand for lithium-ion batteries, and why Tesla is planning on building additional Gigafactories

Part 1: TeslaPart 2: From IPO and OnwardsVisualizing Elon Musk

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Automotive

How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Have you ever wondered how much copper is in an electric vehicle? This infographic shows the metal’s properties as well as the quantity of copper used.

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How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Copper’s special relationship with electricity has been apparent since ship designers first regularly began installing copper to protect the masts of wooden ships from lightning in the early 19th century.

Today, of course, you might be more used to seeing copper’s electrical applications through the use of power lines, telephone wires, and wiring in practically every major home appliance you own.

Millions of tons get used for these applications every year, but it is still early days for copper’s use in electrification. That’s because copper will continue to be a critical component of the green energy revolution, thanks to the rising adoption of battery-powered vehicles.

Why Copper?

Today’s visualization comes to us from Canadian Platinum Corp., and it focuses on showing how much copper is in an electric vehicle, along with the properties that make it the ideal choice for an EV-powered future.

Here is why copper is a crucial component to vehicle manufacturers:

Cost
Copper costs roughly $0.20 per ounce, compared to silver ($15/oz) and gold ($1200/oz), making it by far the cheapest option for electrical wire.

Conductivity:
Copper is nearly as conductive as silver – the most conductive metal – but comes at a fraction of the cost.

Ductility:
Copper can easily be shaped into wire, which is important for most electrical applications.

It’s also important to note that temperature does not affect copper’s conductivity, which makes the metal ideal for automobiles in all climates.

Copper in Gas vs. Electric Vehicles

The UBS Evidence Lab tore apart a traditional gas-powered vehicle as well as an EV to compare the different quantities of raw materials used.

What they found was crucial: there is 80% more copper in a Chevrolet Bolt, in comparison to a similar-sized Volkswagen Golf.

The major reason for this is that at the heart of every EV is an electric motor, which is built with copper, steel, and permanent magnets (rare earths). Electric motors tend to be much simpler than gas-powered engines, which have hundreds of moving parts.

Incredibly, in an electric motor, there can be more than a mile of copper wiring inside the stator.

The More Electric, the More Copper

According to Copper.org, along the scale from gas-powered cars to fully electrical vehicles, copper use increases dramatically.

Conventional gas-powered cars contain 18 to 49 lbs. of copper while a battery-powered EV contains 183 lbs. Meanwhile, for a fully electrical bus, a whopping 814 lbs. of copper is needed.

With the rapidly increasing adoption of electric vehicles, copper will be an essential material for the coming electrification of all forms of ground transport.

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle and the world will need more. By 2027, copper demand stemming from EVs is expected to increase by 1.7 million tonnes, which is a number just shy of China’s entire copper production in 2017.

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