The EV Copper Connection

As the electric vehicle (EV) party gets—dare we say?—amped up, there’s something that throws a wet blanket on things to a certain extent: The availability of rare earth materials that are used in the powertrain, as in the magnets.

As the electric vehicle (EV) party gets—dare we say?—amped up, there’s something that throws a wet blanket on things to a certain extent: The availability of rare earth materials that are used in the powertrain, as in the magnets. As is the case with other powertrain-related materials (think: oil in another context), not all of the rare earth materials are readily available (they are, after all, rare), and according to the people at the International Copper Association, “Currently, China holds 95 percent of global production capacity for the rare earth minerals and dominates rare earth magnet production. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is enforcing tight limits on production and export of these materials.”

So, what’s an electric motor producer to do?

Well, the source of that quote is a clue, as the organization claims that copper can be “an efficient replacement” for rare earth materials in the manufacture of induction motors for EVs.

In addition to which, the ICA claims that it is more economical than using rare earth materials, which is helpful, given the prices of batteries.

M

Tesla motor.

And the use of copper for EV motors is not a theoretical exercise.

Telsa Motors is using a copper rotor for its motor, a motor that generates 300 hp and weighs 100 lb.

According to J.P. Strauber, vice president at Tesla, “In a world where we are building millions of electric vehicles, I think the copper motor rotor will be the technology of choice to make that happen.”

Of course, that “millions of electric vehicles” remains to be seen.