The upcoming e-mobility wave could potentially lead to increased demand for metals such as copper, neodymium, and nickel. The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI has gotten granular on the question if the geological availability of these raw materials is high enough to support e-mobility. The answer is yes, but...
The analysis focuses on the consumption of geological copper resources in the time frame through 2050. All applications for copper have been included into the calculation; particular notice was taken of e-mobility. The somewhat surprising result was that e-mobility will not have much influence on the global copper demand. Even with an (unrealistic) 85 percent market share of e-cars to all new admissions, this segment would make up to only 21 percent of the entire global demand for copper. In a more moderate growth scenario, e-mobility would absorb only 14 percent of the world's copper, explained researcher Martin Wietschel.
According to the study, the geological copper reserves suffice to meet demand in all application segments. Since the reserves are distributed across many countries, political risk associated to copper supply is low. However, with the mining technologies available today, the copper reserves will be exhausted in the 2030s. Since new deposits need to be opened and new technologies have to be developed, a price hike for copper can be expected, explained co-author Gerhard Angerer. And, in order to ensure continuing supply, the development of new mines has to be done within the coming ten to 15 years.
Also the recycling of copper must be intensified. While in most industrialized countries there are already advanced recycling systems in place, there is still a high potential for recycling in the emerging markets.
Another way to avoid supply disruptions is to replace copper by other materials such as aluminum. While technically feasible, the usage of aluminum instead of copper however would significantly affect energy efficiency. Alternatives could be, to some extend, to replace copper by glass fiber or wireless technologies in telecommunications and data networks.
The institute plans to conduct further studies dedicated to other raw materials related to e-mobility. On the list are neodymium used for high-performance magnets in electric motors as well as cobalt and nickel which are used for cathodes in lithium-ion batteries.
Courtesy of Automotive DesignLine Europe.
It may only valid with some very remote possibility, if we use the one kind of mineral for the next 30 years without any technology advancement or change.
I assume that the world technology what we know to use copper is developed for the last 20 years. If we use copper in the same accelerated rate for the last 20 years and continue for the next 30 years, we may see a shortage in some part of world. It more becomes a distribution matter from a political and an investment matter from a trader.
In a future, my children’s or great children’s generation may not stand still on the earth crust. They may well live in space, Moon or Mars or some other place. In year 2030s, are we still living on Earth? Maybe I am, like I did for the 50 years. I doubt my children’s generation is still living on earth. We already look outside to make that happen.
A whole solar System will be a source to get any kind of mineral. I don’t worry about a global shortage of any one kind of mineral. Oil, Gold, and Mineral are a good subject for discussion among investment. It is not really running out of supply.
Wonder if the author has taken care of the fact that copper can be recycled. As suggested above we can have recycling units which will extract copper from old outdated systems. Its alarming to know that copper will be depleted by 2030, I hope this will not shoot up the copper prices like crazy.
Hearing that copper reserves are likely to be exhausted in the 2030s reminds me that when I was in school in the 70's, we studied that oil reserves would be exhausted by the late 80's. On the other hand, maybe the specific target years are just a guess, but it does speak to the need to look at more than just the ability to create something. We also need to look to the long-term ability to sustainably produce it. It won't help to create a fleet of electric vehicles and infrastructure to support it if all we are doing is setting ourselves up for another supply/ecological disaster a few more years into the future.
Where have all the old deflection yokes gone? When will we start mining old land fills for 1950s era television sets? Ok, so perhaps there really isn't enough in the way of copper sitting around in old landfills to be worth mining, but isn't that where copper eventually winds up? For a fact, just how many tons of copper were used in electromagnetic deflection systems, and where did it all go?
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