A future powered by renewables is not in the distant horizon, but rather in its early hours.
This new dawn comes from a global awareness of the environmental impacts of the current energy mix, which relies heavily on fossil fuels and their associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Technologies such as wind, solar, and batteries offer renewable and clean alternatives and are leading the way for the transition to clean energy. However, as with every energy transition, there are not only new technologies, but also new material demands.
Copper: A Key Piece of the Puzzle
This energy transition will be mineral intensive and it will require metals such as nickel, lithium, and cobalt. However, one metal stands out as being particularly important, and that is copper.
Today’s infographic comes to us from the Copper Development Association and outlines the special role of copper in renewable power generation, energy storage, and electric vehicles.
The red metal has four key properties that make it ideal for the clean energy transition.
It is these properties that make copper the critical material for wind and solar technology, energy storage, and electric vehicles.
It’s also why, according to ThinkCopper, the generation of electricity from solar and wind uses four to six times more copper than fossil fuel sources.
Copper in Wind
A three-megawatt wind turbine can contain up to 4.7 tons of copper with 53% of that demand coming from the cable and wiring, 24% from the turbine/power generation components, 4% from transformers, and 19% from turbine transformers.
The use of copper significantly increases when going offshore. That’s because onshore wind farms use approximately 7,766 lbs of copper per MW, while an offshore wind installation uses 21,068 lbs of copper per MW.
It is the cabling of the offshore wind farms to connect them to each other and to deliver the power that accounts for the bulk of the copper usage.
Copper in Solar
Solar power systems can contain approximately 5.5 tons of copper per MW. Copper is in the heat exchangers of solar thermal units as well as in the wiring and cabling that transmits the electricity in photovoltaic solar cells.
Navigant Research projects that 262 GW of new solar installations between 2018 and 2027 in North America will require 1.9 billion lbs of copper.
Copper in Energy Storage
There are many ways to store energy, but every method uses copper. For example, a lithium ion battery contains 440 lbs of copper per MW and a flow battery 540 lbs of copper per MW.
Copper wiring and cabling connects renewable power generation with energy storage, while the copper in the switches of transformers help to deliver power at the right voltage.
Across the United States, a total of 5,752 MW of energy capacity has been announced and commissioned.
Copper in Electric Vehicles
Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle (EV). This is because EVs rely on copper for the motor coil that drives the engine.
The more electric the car, the more copper it needs; a car powered by an internal combustion engine contains roughly 48 lbs, a hybrid needs 88 lbs, and a battery electric vehicle uses 184 lbs.
Additionally, the cabling for charging stations of electric vehicles will be another source of copper demand.
The Copper Future
Advances in technologies create new material demands.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that the transition to renewables is going to create demand for many minerals – and copper is going to be a critical mineral for the new era of energy.
Ranked: Electric Vehicle Sales by Model in 2023
Today, electric vehicle sales make up 18% of global vehicle sales. Here are the leading models by sales as of August 2023.
Ranked: Electric Vehicle Sales by Model in 2023
Electric vehicle (EV) sales are gaining momentum, reaching 18% of global vehicle sales in 2023.
As new competitors bring more affordable options and new performance features, the market continues to mature as customers increasingly look to electric options.
This graphic ranks the top-selling EVs worldwide as of August 2023, based on data from CleanTechnica.
The Best Selling EVs in 2023 (Through August)
Below, we show the world’s best selling fully electric vehicles from January to August 2023:
|Tesla Model Y||🇺🇸 U.S.||772,364|
|Tesla Model 3||🇺🇸 U.S.||364,403|
|BYD Atto 3 / Yuan Plus||🇨🇳 China||265,688|
|BYD Dolphin||🇨🇳 China||222,825|
|GAC Aion S||🇨🇳 China||160,693|
|Wuling HongGuang Mini EV||🇨🇳 China||153,399|
|GAC Aion Y||🇨🇳 China||136,619|
|VW ID.4||🇩🇪 Germany||120,154|
|BYD Seagull||🇨🇳 China||95,202|
As we can see, Tesla‘s Model Y still holds a comfortable lead over the competition with 772,364 units sold. That’s more than double the sales of the #2 top selling vehicle, Tesla’s Model 3 (364,403)
But it’s hard to ignore the rising prevalence of Chinese EVs. The next five best selling EV vehicles are Chinese, including three from BYD. The automaker’s Atto 3 (or Yuan Plus, depending on market), is being sold in various countries including Germany, the UK, Japan, and India.
Meanwhile, Chinese automaker GAC Group also had two models of its Aion EV brand make the rankings, with the Aion S selling 160,693 units so far.
Regional market strength is also clear. For Volkswagen’s ID.4 model (120,154 units sold), Europe and China account for the majority of sales.
Given growing cost efficiencies and changing consumer behavior, global EV sales are projected to make up half of new car sales globally by 2035, according to forecasts from Goldman Sachs.
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