In 2011, the European Commission concluded in its white paper “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area” that the phase-out of fossil fuels driven cars by 2050 was necessary to achieve its energy and climate objectives. In 2019, as part of the European Green Deal, the Commission is proposing to revise the regulation on CO2 standards for cars and vans, to ensure a clear pathway towards zero-emission mobility.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to road transport have grown since 1990 by 20.5%, and now account for one-fifth of EU GHG emissions – and they keep growing. The picture is similar regarding final energy consumption. Road transport uses 24% of EU final energy, having grown by 28% since 1990.
The good news is that a zero-emission technology is ready today for market uptake: the battery electric vehicle. From day one this vehicle completely cuts local GHG and air pollutant emissions and emits three times less GHG emissions on a well-to-wheel basis. On a life cycle basis (“cradle to grave”), a battery-electric vehicle also generates significantly less GHG emissions than cars using gasoline or diesel. Moreover, the full decarbonisation of the electricity system, which is foreseen well before 2050, will enable battery electric vehicles to make transport fully climate-neutral.
Electrifying road transport is also the fastest and most cost-effective way to achieve energy efficiency goals because it is the asset with the highest replacing rate (average car ownership period 5-7 years1)and is currently at least 2.5 times more efficient than alternative technologies.
On 28 November 2019 the European Parliament declared a climate emergency and its Members asked for immediate and ambitious action to limit the effects of climate change2. Battery electric vehicles are ready to contribute to addressing this challenge. What is needed now is to accelerate the deployment of full-electric vehicles.
Copper is one of the main materials that makes this transition possible. On average a battery-electric vehicle requires three times more copper than a vehicle driven by a combustion engine. Half of it is in the battery system, mainly as foil in the anode of the cell working as the current collector and heat dissipator. About one quarter is in the drive motors and their control system, and the other quarter is in wire harness, connectors and electronics. In addition, copper plays a role in the charging infrastructure and in the generation of renewable electricity to power the vehicles.
In this vision paper, our colleague Diego Carvajal outlines his views on this promising market and lists the policy actions that are needed in the short and medium-term to accelerate this market.