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Demand for copper for electric vehicles will grow many times over in the coming years

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New copper production capacity should be brought online within the next 5-7 years to avoid shortages

Demand for copper for electric vehicles will grow many times over in the coming years

Light-duty electric vehicles with batteries up to 100 kWh use three to four times more copper than gasoline and diesel counterparts: 80-85 kg in high-voltage batteries and electric vehicle engines compared to 20-25 kg in low-voltage batteries in vehicles with internal combustion engine.

For plug-in hybrids, the total amount of copper is around 60kg, while all-electric trucks such as upcoming Rivian and Hummer models with battery packs over 180kWh could be double that.

Slightly less than half of the copper in the average EV is in the battery, mostly in the form of foil for the anode material.

A note from BMO Capital Markets notes that due to its thinness, compatibility and light weight, copper foil (ED) is considered the most suitable for battery applications.

An investment bank says this has led to a dramatic increase in ED's newly announced copper foil capacity, with an annual production capacity of around 1 million tons announced in 2021, to be brought on stream over the next 5-7 years, to avoid shortages.

ED foil production primarily uses high-quality scrap, so competition for copper scrap will intensify, while the impact on refined copper may be less significant, says BMO.

Wood McKenzie, an energy and metals researcher, expects final demand for copper from passenger electric vehicles (including hybrids) to grow to around 2.9 Mt over the next decade from around 0.6 Mt in 2021 .

For comparison: the annual production is about 21 million tons, and the total use of copper scrap is almost 6 million tons.

Copper prices edged lower on Wednesday, trading at around $4.40/lb or $9,700/t in New York, ignoring unexpectedly strong growth in the US and China, back in stimulus mode.

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