The Electric Car Revolution Will Need a Lot of Copper

  • Usage in electric cars alone to up demand by 1.2 million tons
  • Indian copper offtake to grow by as much as 10 percent a year

Demand for copper globally is set to jump 22 percent in as soon as five years on increasing usage of the metal in electric vehicles, solar and wind power sectors, according to Indian billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Hindalco Industries Ltd.

Consumption is seen rising to 28 million metric tons in the next five to seven years from about 23 million tons now, J.C. Laddha, head of the Indian company’s copper unit, said in New Delhi at an industry conference. Electric vehicles alone will boost global copper demand by 1.2 million tons, he said.

India is also expected to benefit from the electric-vehicle push as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to turn all passenger car sales electric by 2030, Laddha said. “But even without the demand from electric vehicles, demand should rise to 1.8 million tons to 2 million tons,” he said.

Copper has rallied more than 20 percent this year along with other industrial metals on prediction of tighter supplies and increasing global economic growth amid new sources of demand. Top producer Codelco forecasts that prices could test record highs above $10,000 a metric ton as the supply-demand balance shifts to substantial deficits from 2018.

India’s consumption is expected to grow by as much as 10 percent from 700,000 tons a year now, Laddha said. India has the potential to boost consumption of everything from copper to iron ore as its economy expands over the next two decades and more people flock to its cities, according to projections from the Australian government that examine whether the country will emulate China.

The South Asian nation will auction more copper mines to meet demand as the reliance mostly on foreign supplies makes the local industry “vulnerable,” Mines Secretary Arun Kumar said at the same industry event.

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