What precious metals are used in electric cars?

In Buyer's Guide by evarchive2 Comments

There are various precious metals used in electric cars, the amount varies on the model of the car and which manufacturer has built the car. Currently, some of the precious metals used are silver, cobalt, and gold.

Using precious metals can become expensive very quickly for manufacturers of electric cars. This obviously has a knock on effect to the end users who are the customers paying for the car. Generally, manufacturers try not to use precious metals as a rule of thumb, but sometimes the properties of these metals allow manufacturers to achieve results they couldn’t with more affordable materials.

For example, cobalt is used in lithium-ion batteries as it extends the life cycle of the battery cell, it is difficult to keep reducing the amount cobalt whilst keeping a good life cycle. It’s also worth noting that reducing the amount of cobalt and increasing the amount of nickel results in overheating of the battery cells. This is because cobalt has a high melting point and retains its strength during high temperatures. Cobalt is also ferromagnetic which means it can retain its magnetic properties at very high temperatures. Essentially, cobalt has some very good properties and using it in battery cells makes them a lot safer and more durable.

An example of a cheaper more readily available material is copper which is a fantastic conductor of electricity and also diamagnetic. Diamagnetic essentially means that copper is repelled (pushed away) by magnets. This is a very useful property as some electric motors use permanent magnets or an electromagnetic field to repel the copper part of the motor, which creates movement within the motor.

Do electric cars use platinum?

Platinum is not used in any fully electric cars, that being said it is used in hybrids. Platinum is most commonly used in internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, specifically for catalytic converters. The catalytic converters job is to convert toxic gases into less harmful gases for the atmosphere and for us to breathe. Since an electric car produces zero emissions, it does not need a tailpipe and therefore no catalytic converters are needed. The automobile industry is currently one of the biggest consumers of platinum, which according to Investing News uses approximately 40% of all total demand. With this new revolution of electric cars, there will be a lot less platinum required in the future than is currently produced.

Do electric cars use silver?

Electric cars use silver, silver is contained within circuit boards. However, only small trace amounts are used as it is an expensive metal. Circuit boards also exist in the more modern gasoline cars and with technology advancing there is a requirement for more circuit boards in cars, especially for sensors and onboard computers etc.

Do electric cars use copper?

Copper is an essential metal for manufacturing electric cars. Within copper.org’s publication, it states that an electric car contains approximately 183lbs (83kg) of copper. Whilst a typical gasoline car can contain anything between 18 to 49lbs (8 to 22kg), this shows how much of an increase in copper is required for electric cars.

Electric cars can contain more than a mile of copper wiring wound in the stator. The stator is part of an electric motor, which helps to create movement by repelling itself from magnets within the motor. There is copper in other parts of the car too, such as the copper wiring used in the wiring harness to connect the battery pack and the electronics together. Shall I go on? OK, well depending on the makeup of your battery pack it may contain copper, the Chevy Bolt contains up to 8% copper in the battery pack.

Copper is not only used in the cars, it is also used in the charging stations as it has high conductivity, durability, and efficiency. Coppers ductility allows it to be easily shaped into wire and its a lot cheaper compared to other metals with similar properties.

Is there enough copper for electric cars?

There is more than enough copper for the supply of electric cars, for both the present and the future. Robert Edwards who works as an analyst for CRU who provide business intelligence in the field of metals and mining said “While EV’s are a great long-term story, demand is only expected to be around 1.5% of world refined copper consumption this year, and even 5 years out is unlikely to be anything more than 3%”. After doing some research I found that the demand for copper could increase to 1,700 kilotons globally by 2027. The good news is that copper can be 100% recycled and reused which means it is a sustainable material and less would need to be mined out of the ground.

Do electric cars use cobalt?

Cobalt is used specifically within the batteries of an electric car, the batteries are the power source of an electric car. Batteries basically power the electric motor, in the same way, that gasoline powers an internal combustion engine. Cobalt demand has increased significantly within the last 10 years, due to the growing demand of electric cars, laptops, cell phones and basically anything that uses a lithium-ion battery. It is predicted that by the end of 2019, that 55% of all cobalt demand will be for rechargeable batteries. At the moment it is very rare for companies to mine specifically for cobalt, normally they mine for nickel or copper and get cobalt as a by-product of mining for these other metals. This means that if nickel and copper prices start falling there will be a reluctance to mine for these materials and the price of cobalt would start to increase.

Why is cobalt used in batteries?

Cobalt is used in lithium-ion battery’s as it extends the life cycle of the battery cell, it is difficult to keep reducing the amount cobalt whilst keeping a good life cycle. It’s also worth noting that reducing the amount of cobalt and increasing the amount of nickel results in overheating of the battery cells. This is because cobalt has a high melting point and retains its strength during high temperatures. Cobalt is also ferromagnetic which means it can retain its magnetic properties at very high temperatures. Essentially, cobalt has some very good properties and using it in battery cells makes them a lot safer and more durable. All the car manufacturers are currently offering a battery warranty with their cars, this give people confidence in the technology. Imagine if they started to reduce the cobalt by so much that the battery would degrade below 80% of its original capacity, within the first 8 years. There would be lots of battery pack replacements required by the manufacturers under warranty and that can get expensive very quickly.

Is there enough cobalt for electric cars?

After looking into this topic, I found that there is enough cobalt to be able to meet demand for the near future. However, if this demand increases dramatically, there could be supply issues. At the moment it looks like there is enough cobalt in the ground, but there might be an issue with the number of refineries needed. The problem is that in 2016 there were 93,000tons of cobalt that was refined, there would have to be a big increase in the amount refineries for refining the metal. The other thing is that if demand suddenly increases can companies really start up mining operations in new mines quick enough? All this remains to be seen whether the industry could increase supply enough to meet a big increase in demand in a short space of time. One thing for sure is that whilst cobalt remains the most expensive material in batteries, companies will be looking at ways to reduce the amount they use within their batteries or look to develop new battery technologies without it.

how much cobalt is there in a Tesla battery?

Tesla currently uses a lithium-ion battery which contains, nickel, cobalt, and aluminum within the cathode of the battery. This equates to 80% nickel, 15% cobalt, and 5% aluminum based on figures from 2016. Tesla has managed to reduce the amount of the cobalt by about 60% within the last few years which is a major saving for themselves and the customer. The reason for this is that even though cobalt only makes up about 15% of the total material within the cathode, it is also the most expensive of all the materials used in the battery. Cobalt is not a common material to find when mining and 65% of all the worlds production of cobalt comes from the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). This proves difficult, as the DRC is considered to be a politically unstable country, with high amounts of corruption and poor labor laws.

Do electric cars use palladium?

Palladium is not used in any fully electric cars, that being said it is used in hybrids. Palladium is most commonly used in internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, specifically for catalytic converters. The catalytic converters job is to convert toxic gases into less harmful gases for the atmosphere and for us to breathe. Since an electric car produces zero emissions, it does not need a tailpipe and therefore no catalytic converters are needed.

Do electric cars use gold?

Electric cars use gold, gold is contained within circuit boards. However, only small trace amounts are used as it is an expensive metal. Circuit boards also exist in the more modern gasoline cars and with technology advancing there is a requirement for more circuit boards in cars, especially for sensors and onboard computers etc.

Comments

    1. Author

      I have heard about Graphene, some news sources hail it as the new revolutionary material. Lots of materials have been given this status in the past, I will wait and see which is the next big material to be used in EV’s. I can see the big positives of graphene. Graphene used in EV batteries could be a big technological advancement for lots of industries.

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