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Copper-induced ripple effects by the expanding electric vehicle fleet: A crisis or an opportunity

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Full Publication Date
October 2020

Copper is an essential element for electric vehicle (EV). Currently, little efforts have been directed toward understanding the EV-copper-resource-environment nexus. Autoregressive integrated moving average model combined with dynamic material flow analysis was developed for the nexus analysis in Fujian in China due to its vigorous EV promotion. Results showed that standardized passenger vehicle ownership would increase 3.34 times from 2018 to the peak year 2042, with about 12 times’ and 139 times’ increase of EV sales in baseline and aggressive scenarios respectively. Accordingly, EV-induced additional copper demand in Fujian would increase the same times as EV sales since 2018, leading to the expansion of copper processing that would incur increasing ripple effects, including 1) aggressive scenario's accumulative additional copper ore demand during 2013-2050 exceed 40 times Chinese reserve in 2016; 2) about 62% of on-road EV's CO2eq reduction compared with Fuel vehicle would be offset by CO2 emissions from baseline scenario's additional copper processing under Chinese power structure in 2018. Additionally, many other pollutants will also increasingly be emitted in response to the growing EV-induced additional materials’ processing, which can further extend ripple effects from local to global environment, and finally threaten global sustainability. The ripple effects indicated the importance of pyramid tip product catalog pedigree to promote international cooperation in products’ lifecycle management and extend cleaner production to cleaner consumption, efficient fleet cleaner production technologies, longer products’ lifespan, circular design, and cleaner power supply.

Chu-Long Huang
Hongda Fang
Peng Wang
Shenghui Cui
Zirong Li
Research Areas
Mobility Systems
Urban Systems and Built Environment
additional copper demand, electric vehicles, passenger vehicle ownership prediction, pyramid tip product management, ripple effects
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation
Huang, Chu-Long, Ming Xu, Shenghui Cui, Zirong Li, Hongda Fang, Peng Wang. (2020) “Copper-induced ripple effects by the expanding electric vehicle fleet: A crisis or an opportunity.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling 161(104861): 1-13.