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A shortage of nickel, copper, and other metals used in electric car batteries is looming, according to a Tesla executive, quoted by two unnamed Reuters sources. The executive, Tesla global supply manager for battery metals Sarah Maryssael, spoke at a closed-doors event with miners, lawmakers, and regulators.
Later, a company spokesperson told Reuters the concern was not immediate, but rather a long-term expectation. However, a shortage of some of the metals used in electric cars is not out of the question.
Copper, for example, features heavily in EVs, with the highest concentration in its engine: the amount of copper used in EV engines is twice as high as the amount used in internal combustion engines. With millions of EVs planned to hit roads in the future, it’s easy to see why a shortage concern may be in order.
This is all the more true since it’s not just EVs that use a lot of copper. Reuters notes that devices such as Apple’s Alexa and Alphabet’s Nest smart thermostat also use a lot of it, and with product numbers growing, demand for copper for just these two products will soar from 38,000 tons to date to as much as 1.5 million tons in 2030, according to projections from consultancy BSRIA.
Copper mining, meanwhile, is not seeing a lot of investment right now and this lack of investment may come back to bite if this fast rate of growth in demand for the basic metal persists.
There is also the problem with ethical mining, which mostly concerns cobalt. Most cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is notorious for its child labor practices and artisanal cobalt mining.
The alternative is sourcing battery metals from ethical locations, and this is already being done, according to Maryssael, through partnerships between the carmaker and miners in Australia, Canada, and Chile.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.