EVs use twice as much copper as legacy vehicles, and smart phones, tablets and other popular consumer electronics are also consuming increasing amounts of the conductive metal.
Growing demand and tight supply could soon lead to shortages of copper, nickel and other key minerals used in EV batteries. As Reuters reports, Sarah Maryssael, Tesla’s Global Supply Manager for Battery Metals, said at a recent mining industry conference that the company sees a global shortage of key EV minerals in the future, due to underinvestment in the mining sector.
The copper industry has suffered from years of underinvestment, according to sources cited by Reuters, and is scrambling to develop new mines and bring fresh supply online as vehicle electrification gathers momentum. Freeport-McMoRan, the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer, is expanding capacity in the US and Indonesia.
Another promising mineral supplier is Australia, which recently signed a preliminary deal with the US to support joint research and development of strategic minerals. Maryssael told the conference that there is “huge potential” to partner with mines in Australia and/or the US.
Maryssael added that Tesla will continue to focus on nickel, and plans to use less cobalt in its battery cathodes. Cobalt is primarily mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where extraction sometimes involves child labor and other unsavory practices.
In the past, Charged has spoken with various players in the metals and minerals sectors, and they invariably point out that the “shortages” that some companies warn about are huge opportunities for others. There is a lot of money to be made for those who can solve supply problems, so they tend to work themselves out over time.