Electromobility: “I think 2019 is a critical turning point”

Fleming Voetmann, Vice President of Public Affairs of the International Copper Association (ICA), reveals the importance of this new period in the take-off of commercial electric vehicles, and, therefore, the demand for copper for electromobility.

2019 is a key year for the exponential growth of commercial electric trucks and electric buses for cleaner public transport, particularly in China. With 9,500 electric buses added every five weeks to its fleet, the Asian giant is leading this true transport revolution, looking towards reducing carbon emissions and creating a cleaner environment.

In this interview with Fleming Voetmann, we spoke on the projections in electromobility and the role played by the mining sector and our country in the production of electric vehicles.

With respect to the use of copper in electromobility, what does the panorama look like in the coming years? Are we moving in the direction of the latest projections?

In 2017 the electric vehicle (EV) market experienced record growth as global sales increased 54% to 3.1 million cars. While impressive, the IEA predicts this trend will continue and reach 125 million vehicles by 2030—meaning one in six or more new cars in the world will be electric. Many of the major car companies have pledged to only EVs in the future and at the same time, many mayors are banning conventional car from their cities. This combined will help accelerate the uptake of EVs”

I believe 2019 is a critical turning point for the expansion of commercial electric trucks and EV buses for cleaner public transportation—combatting carbon emissions and improving air quality. China continues to be the leader in energy-saving and green-vehicle technology. In 2017 Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that close to 400,000 electric buses were operating around the world—99 percent of which operated in China. Furthermore, the report estimates China adds about 9,500 EV buses every five weeks—the size of London’s entire fleet.

What role is currently playing the mining sector in the take-off of the production of electric vehicles? What role would you expect to play in the coming years?

According to the statistics by Shanghai Brilliance Consulting, the amount of copper in China’s electric buses can reach 224 – 369kg (500 lbs) per unit on average. As the nation is projected to have five-million electric vehicles in 2020, the use of copper in EVs for transportation in China is estimated to exceed 300,000 tonnes. When copper in charging infrastructure is included, the total copper use generated by the new electric vehicle industry may surpass 400,000 tonnes by 2020.

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB Inbev) recently purchased 1,600 electric trucks from Volkswagen—producing the first 100 percent electric truck in Latin America. The purchase represents one-third of the company’s truck fleet, reducing 30.4K tonnes of carbon. This marks a major breakthrough for commercial electric trucks.

Major breakthroughs in innovation also present new business opportunities, including new charging infrastructure, more demand response, and flexible pricing. All of which can help increase efficiency in power production and distribution.

Increased demand for EVs and increased electrification means increased demand for copper, the most sustainable metal for electric motors, power generation, and infrastructure.  With new public-private partnerships, government regulatory support, and investment in innovative research, 2019 is the perfect climate for commercial electric vehicles to take off.

What challenges and opportunities does Chile face with the growing demand for copper associated with electromobility?

I think Chile is positioned extremely well to play a major role in a low carbon future. With increased demand for copper and other metals also follow increased societal expectations for sustainable production of copper. The Chilean government and the copper industry shares a strong commitment to sustainability – including the need for more renewable energy, more recycling of water, more desalination and a continued focus on health and safety. Improved sustainability often leads to increased productivity – producing more with less.  In the past years, we have seen impressive and important investments in both new technology, renewable energy and water which are really promising.