The Inconvenient Truth About Copper: Implications for U.S. Electrification Goals

by Charles Rotter at

In the relentless pursuit of a greener future, copper stands as a critical element, central to the envisioned transition to renewable energy and electrification. However, recent insights bring to light a formidable obstacle: the rate of copper extraction is insufficient to meet the ambitious targets set by current U.S. policies. This blog post highlights this dilemma, as explained by the International Energy Forum’s (IEF) report, and examines the broader implications for energy policy and economic stability. 

The Copper Conundrum

Copper is indispensable in the manufacture of electric vehicles (EVs) and the development of renewable energy infrastructure. The IEF report starkly presents the challenge:

“Electric vehicles (EVs) require substantially more copper and other metals than conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. For example, manufacture of an ICE automobile requires 24 kg of copper whereas manufacture of an EV requires 60 kg”​​.

This statement alone encapsulates the monumental demand for copper driven by the push towards electrification. With policies mandating that 100% of cars manufactured be electric by 2035, the strain on copper supply becomes even more evident. The report quantifies this demand further:

“To meet business-as-usual trends, 115% more copper must be mined in the next 30 years than has been mined historically until now. To electrify the global vehicle fleet requires bringing into production 55% more new mines than would otherwise be needed”​​