Chilean copper and lithium triumph in China at the demand of electric car manufacturers

Published on 14 March 2018

The increased production of electric vehicles has triggered the export of Chilean lithium to China, and copper could go the same way.

There is good news for Chile's economy. Copper, the metal that generates 50% of the country's export earnings, has an important opportunity to increase its demand from automobile manufacturers, who increasingly require larger quantities of this metal to produce electric motors.

As mentioned by the president of the Chilean Senate, Andrés Zaldívar, in an interview with the agency Efe cited by the portal Emol.com, four times more copper is consumed in the production of an electric vehicle than in a current one. This leads to the global increase in sales of this modality (which went from representing 0.5% of the global total in 2014 to 1.7% in 2017, according to Mcuarie Bank figures quoted by Business Insider Australia) have an even more significant impact in the sales of the countries exporting the red metal.

And the main producer of electric cars is the Asian country, despite the fact that the first brand that can see the mind is the technological archives Tesla. The Green Car Reports website highlights in a recent article that BYD was the brand that sold the most vehicles in the world, reaching 113,669 units. It is followed by another Chinese brand, BAIC, with 103,199 units, and just in third place appears Tesla, with a similar figure (103,122 units). In general, six of the ten largest electric car producers are located in China, according to the Clean Technica portal.

In parallel, another metal that would register an increase in demand is the lithium used in batteries that store energy. The tables shown below show the leap that the value of exports of this mineral and copper from Chile to China, partly in response to the demand of the electric automotive industry.

With the expected rebound in the price of oil for this year, which would close the year even above US $ 70 per barrel, when last year was even below US $ 50, and the tendency to look for products with lower environmental impact, is It is expected that the tendency to buy more electric cars will continue to grow. In this way, Chile, which produced 5.5 million of the 19.4 million tons of copper worldwide in 2016, has a great opportunity to secure a place for its recovered production, which would reach 5.9 million tons in the absence of a strike such as of the Escondida mine last year.

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