Soaring demand urges wiser working with copper

Soaring demand urges wiser working with copper

Figures from mining giant BHP Billiton suggest that there are around 20kg of copper in a car powered by an internal combustion engine, 40kg in a hybrid vehicle and 80kg in an electric vehicle (EV). Those quantities are proportionately greater for electrically powered commercial vehicles.

So, with predictions that around 90% of new car sales in Britain will be electric by 2050, and with the French government’s bold commitment to banning new diesel and petrol car sales by 2040, the demand for copper is set to rise very steeply indeed.

Consultancy IDTechEx, in a survey carried out on behalf of the International Copper Association, predicts that the rush for vehicle electrification worldwide will see demand for copper soaring from its current level of around 185,000 tonnes per annum to 1.74 million tonnes per annum by 2027.

The inevitable outcome, of course, will be higher prices for this metal, which, thanks to its excellent electrical properties, will be in high demand for use in batteries, motor windings and rotors, high-voltage conductors and the vastly increased quantity of copper cabling.

For hybrid and EV manufacturers, this clearly poses a problem. Rising copper prices mean that the manufacturing methods used to convert this raw material into finished products will have to adapt in order to minimise – preferably eliminate – wastage.

Machining is the most common method but it is reductive and consequently it creates considerable amounts of waste in the form of scrap which must be recycled – adding to costs. These costs mount up when components are manufactured in large quantities.

In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at how an alternative, waste-free engineering technique, known as precision cold forming, can offer significant advantages over conventional machining.