• EV Charging Infrastructure
  • Fast Charging
  • Europe
  • Mining
  • Supply Chain

Copper Demand Surges as EU Expands EV Fast Charging Network

Yuchen Hu
Nov 10, 2023

Dump truck in a copper mine

New European Union (EU) rules aimed at updating the EV fast charging network have provided a boost to the EV charging industry. By 2026, charging facilities with a minimum output of 400 kW will be required every 60 km along core Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) corridors—motorways and other high quality roads designated as the most strategic trans-European connections. As of October 2022, these core routes spanned around 29,000 km, calling for a minimum of around 480 charging facilities. In addition, by 2028, charging stations with an output of 1400 kW to 2800 kW will be required every 120 km on half of all TEN-T roads—meaning more than 300 charging facilities over approximately 36,000 km.

Copper, a key raw material used for wiring, bus bars, and inverters in charging stations, will see a substantial increase in demand due to these deployment targets and installations. The International Copper Association estimates that each EV charger needs an average of 0.7 kg of copper, while fast chargers can require up to 8 kg of copper each. An industry expert interviewed by Guidehouse Insights further estimates that the megawatt chargers used to power heavy duty EV trucks can potentially use more than 10 kg of copper. Based on Guidehouse Insights’ recently published EV Charging Technologies Forecast Database, we project that by 2032, a total of 71,000 tons of copper will be needed for EV charging stations in Europe, with a global figure reaching 314,000 tons.

This rapid demand is set to outpace supply within the next 5 years, a critical period for the development of the EU’s fast charging network. Kathleen Quirk, president of major copper producer Freeport-McMoRan, has expressed concerns about the mining industry’s ability to meet demand due to a lack of copper mines. Conservative estimates put the global copper supply shortage at around 3.5 million tons by 2032—with some estimates much higher—which will likely lead to price increases. While EV charging manufacturers are not worried for the immediate term, as they have already stocked up on copper raw materials at low prices this year, future price increases could affect the cost of EV charging stations, potentially hindering deployment.

The copper industry is actively seeking solutions to address the upcoming supply shortage. In addition to exploring new mines or advancing extraction technologies for challenging mine locations, recycling copper scrap offers a viable solution to bridge the supply gap. According to Guidehouse Insights’ estimates, by 2032, over 40% of newly installed EV chargers could use copper materials sourced from retired chargers. This could reduce demand for virgin copper by 40,000 tons in Europe and 182,600 tons globally.

Interested in learning more about EVs and EV charging? Check out Guidehouse Insights’ EV Charging Technologies Forecast Database and related reports, as well as its Electric Vehicles and Vehicle Charging reports, for more information.