Electric Vehicle Popularity Grows as Gas Prices Rise

February 20, 2012


EVs get their power from copper-the mighty metal that contributes to the innovative technology that supports electric vehicles. The Copper Development Association (CDA) will demonstrate the power of the copper rotor motor for EVs Feb. 21-23, 2012 at the SAE Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Symposium in San Diego.

NEW YORK - As gas prices surge toward the $4 a gallon mark - and possibly higher - this spring, Americans are looking toward an alternative. And that's the electric vehicle. The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is up more than 8 percent since the end of 2011, rising from $3.25 per gallon to $3.52, according to new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

While gas prices tend to rise through the first half of the year, this is the earliest that the average price per gallon has breached the $3.50 mark. If this pace continues, the national average should hit $4 a gallon by May, if not sooner.

One Solution: Electric Vehicles with Copper Rotor Motors

The popularity of the electric vehicle is good both for the auto industry and will contribute to a cleaner environment and less dependency on foreign oil, says Bob Weed, CDA Vice President OEM.

"The use of more electrically-fueled vehicles is good for energy independence in this country, good for the environment and will have a very positive impact on the amount of copper that's used in a vehicle," Weed says.

Weed will demonstrate the innovation of the copper motor at SAE Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Symposium, Feb. 21-23 in San Diego. The conference will show the latest technical innovations with real-world data in electric drives, motors, energy storage and system engineering from the innovators and OEMs of hybrid and electric vehicle technology.

"It's a perfect opportunity for the CDA to collaborate with engineers and designers as we show how this improved technology will enhance the hybrid and electric vehicle industry," Weed says. "Copper has always been recognized as the preferred material for conducting electricity, which is why it's used universally in motor windings."

Copper Induction Motors vs. Permanent Magnet Motors for EVs

In the past, internal permanent magnet motors had been one choice for electric vehicles. But that view is evolving as automakers consider the induction motor, a potential alternative to the permanent magnet motor. Copper induction motors have comparable torque and efficiency, along with a rugged, durable design. Advantages to the copper induction motor include:

  • Copper rotors don't have a drag loss when the motor turns on and they don't lose their efficiency during high speed or low torque conditions. This makes them well suited for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Copper rotors provide an economic advantage over aluminum rotors. Although the raw material cost for aluminum may be less than copper, the motor with a cast copper rotor can be up to 25% smaller than an equivalent motor with an aluminum rotor. The superior heat conduction of copper also contributes to cost savings.
  • The use of die-cast copper rotors (an improved technology that takes into account copper's much higher melting temperature than aluminum, for example) provides an efficient, high production process.

"With these advantages, more motor manufacturers are now evaluating induction motors with cast copper rotors for electric vehicles," Weed says.

Automotive Copper Facts to Consider

  • The average car produced in North America has 50-55 pounds of copper in it. In an electric car, that amount triples - to 150-180 pounds.
  • More than two-thirds of the copper will be found in car's wiring harness and electrical components.
  • Copper has the highest conductivity of any metal that can be practically used for conveying electricity.
  • Each year in the U.S., nearly as much copper is recovered from recycled material as is derived from newly mined ore.

Sources: Copper Development Association, www.fueleconomy.gov, www.pluginamerica.org, U.S. Department of Transportation