Clean copper crisis caper

There has been some discussion in recent years about increasing production of EVs will increase demand for copper.

The local Detroit “news” ran a piece tonight that was particularly hysterical as in stoking panic, not the laffing sort.

Their “report” seems to be based on a “report” published by the University of Michigan.

A few interesting things about the U of M report:

1: the report claims the Inflation Reduction Act requires all cars manufactured in 2035 and after to be electric. I have looked at the Wiki article on the IRA, and did two or three web searches for any sort of EV mandate in the IRA, and found none. Is the article’s claim of an IRA EV mandate correct, or a lie?

2: the article claims that between 2018 and 2050, without adding demand for EVs and clean energy, more copper will need to be mined than has been mined in all of human history, up to 2018. The article goes on that 6 huge new copper mines will need to be opened every year to meet that demand, plus EVs.

3: the study concludes that the focus should be on hybrids, not EVs, because they use less copper.

On the face of it, this “report” looks like hysterical garbage that was probably paid for by GM, Ford, Exxon, and Chevron. …and people wonder why I am automatically skeptical of any “study” the media touts.

What does the board hive brain think?

California has a mandate to require all new cars be zero-emissions by 2035. California has a way of forcing the auto manufacturers to comply with new regulations, as none of the manufacturers want to lose California’s large market. Also, other states tend to follow California’s lead. But it is a stretch to say the IRA forces the mandate. I doubt all other states will follow the zero-emissions rule.

  • Pete

I think they are just pointing out that mining and producing copper will be a big challenge for US and the rest of the world. They think there are too many hurdles for approval of copper mines in the US and by inference they think this true for the rest of the world. I think that these problems will be solved quickly when copper shortages develope and copper prices go exponentially high.

I think their selection of Hybrids over EVs is questionable. Just looking at two models of Honda Accord (“A normal Honda Accord needs about 40 pounds of copper. The same battery electric Honda Accord needs almost 200 pounds of copper") does not make for a valid comparison. Here is what the copper industry says:
• Internal combustion engine: 23 kg of copper.
• Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV): 40 kg of copper.
• Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV):
60 kg of copper.
• Battery electric vehicle (BEV): 83 kg of copper

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With the CyberTruck Tesla moved from 12 to 48 volts which runs on much thinner wires. And because Elon Musk wants to save the planet…

Tesla sent the 48-volt system specs to other manufacturers and Ford CEO Jim Farley just confirmed that he received it.

Considering his response “Great for the industry!” we can assume that Ford will be willing to implement a 48-volt system in its vehicles as well, potentially starting with some next-generation all-electric vehicles.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk also responded, “You’re welcome.” Perhaps we’ll soon see some other manufacturers hint at 48 volts now.

‘Great For The Industry’: Ford, Others Get Tesla Cybertruck 48V System Specs

This might spark another technological shift in the industry.

Tradition s great as long as it does not get in the way of progress.

The Captain


Higher voltages would be much much better almost everywhere all around, but will require safer protection for children, idiots, and lack of maintenance. “European” style plugs are part way there, while the Edison plugs of the USA aren’t even well designed for 110.

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(I love how much faster my tea kettle here in Mallorca boils when pulling 220V)


From last year:

Copper—the “metal of electrification”—is essential to all energy transition plans. But the potential supply-demand gap is expected to be very large… …Substitution and recycling will not be enough to meet the demands of electric vehicles (EVs), power infrastructure, and renewable generation…

The chronic gap between worldwide copper supply and demand projected to begin in the middle of this decade will have serious consequences across the global economy…

The challenges this poses are reminiscent of the 20th-century scramble for oil but may be accentuated by an even higher geographic concentration for copper resources and the downstream industry to refine it into products [read China]…

Projects under development today would likely not be sufficient to offset the projected shortfalls in copper supply, even if their permitting and construction were accelerated.


48 DC volts is supposed to be safe.

What is the new 48V and is it safe?

Voltages below a 60VDC limit are considered Safety-Extra Low-Voltage or SELV, referring to their handling requirements compared to 12V usage. The 48V distribution scheme minimizes I2R losses without creating SELV issues.

The Captain


So, at 2.2lbs/kg, the U of M “report” understates the amount of copper used in an ICE vehicle, and overstates the amount used in a BEV.

See why I automatically question hysterical stuff the media touts?

Great information all around guys. Thanks.



So will continued use of fossil fuels have serious consequences across the global economy…. Therefore, the world needs to go whole hog on mining and refining of copper starting yesterday. Copper prices already going up:

Copper futures soared to a record-high of $5.13 per pound steading near the $4.95 mark in May, supported by increasing concerns that bullish demand in a backdrop of tight supply will bring deficits. Copper’s key role in electrification from electrical vehicle charging to grid-scale energy storage and data-center infrastructure underpinned forecasts for the metal’s utility. Meanwhile, China imported more copper ore inputs despite the sharp increase in prices, highlighting demand from manufacturers and adding to hopes of industrial traction in the country following Beijing’s plan to roll out long-maturity bonds. In turn, the low availability of material hampered margins for smelters in China, responsible for over half of global supply, and pressured their output. Hopes of added mine supply are dim, as high costs of committing to new projects drove giant miners toward M&A activity instead of starting new projects, recently headlined by BHP’s second attempt to buy Anglo American.

You’ll see 8000 series aluminum and other substitutions as the price of copper stays up.

There are a number of ways that “new” aluminum is different than “old” aluminum.

(nevermind that the technical term for these metals is “alloy”)

Here are some examples: these are lighter, equivalent load and completely acceptable for these applications. Aluminum is also frequently used as buss bar as well, a feature used in high density electrical systems, like automotive powertrains.
Triplex 8000 Series Conductor Aluminum 600V URD.pdf (
Copper Vs. Aluminium Conductors Wire Wisdom (
What Type Of Aluminum Is Best For Electrical Applications? – Clinton Aluminum