Copper Helps to Power the Electric Transportation Revolution

Copper Helps to Power the Electric Transportation Revolution

This piece was originally published in the May/June 2019 issue of electroindustry.

The transportation sector contributes the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and other vehicles account for 28.5 percent of CO2 emissions nationwide, just edging out energy sector emissions.1 However, electric vehicles (EVs) and electric buses are shifting this dynamic and moving the U.S. toward a sustainable transportation future.

Efforts to transition the nation to electric transportation are well underway and even exceeding expectations. In 2018, the U.S. surpassed 1 million EVs in total sales2—seven years ahead of industry forecasts for annual sales.3 Looking ahead, global prospects are even more exciting. The International Energy Agency forecasts that there will be 125 million EVs on the road by 2030.4

Copper, one of the world’s most effective and efficient electrical conductors, is a key material driver of EVs and EV growth.

Copper is found in EV inverters, batteries, and electric motors. EVs use 85 to 183 pounds of copper in total, nearly four times the amount used in a conventional car. Hybrid and electric buses need even more copper, containing between 183 and 814 pounds.

As EVs and charging stations continue to become more widespread and affordable, copper will continue to be essential for supporting the infrastructure needed for electric vehicle charging; 5 million charging ports5 will be needed in the next decade.

As the nation and world race to a sustainable energy future, new technology will allow us to redesign transportation while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The associated EVs and EV infrastructure will be supported by the conductivity and reliability of copper and will rely on more skilled electrical professionals than ever before.

It’s critical that the nation invests in career and technical education programs to strengthen and grow our electrical workforce to meet the demands of EV production and the installation of charging infrastructure and stations in homes, buildings, and communities across the nation. ei


  1. Environmental Protection Agency, Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, https://
  2. Mark Kane, “Plug-In Electric Cars Sales in U.S. Surpass 1 Million,” Inside EVs, October 2018,
  3. The Edison Foundation Institute for Electric Innovation, Plug-in Electric Vehicle Forecast: 2016-2025, March 2017, energy/pdf/eei_iei-pev-forecast-2016-2025pdf.pdf
  4. Global EV Outlook 2018, International Energy Agency,
  5. Edison Electric Institute, EEI-IEI Report Forecasts 7 Million Plug-In Electric Vehicles Will Be On U.S. Roads By 2025, June 2017,

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