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The world is undergoing green energy revolution and the automobile industry is leaving no stone unturned to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) development, which is the driving force toward this clean energy revolution. As consumers get more environment conscious with each passing day, EV industry prospects are only expected to blossom in the coming years. While lithium seems to be the metal that is grabbing most eyeballs amid this e-mobility push, one should not underestimate the role of copper in sustainable energy-efficient transportation.
Copper’s Critical Role in EV Tech
The red metal is an essential component in EVs, and is used in electric motors, batteries, inverters and wiring. Also, the EV charging infrastructure is largely based on copper-based technologies. Copper is a key component of charging infrastructure and is found in cables, transformers and wiring to the electric panel.
Importantly, usage of copper in EVs is up to 4 times more than in the conventional cars. Per the Copper Development Association Inc., traditional cars have 18-49 pounds of copper, hybrid EVs contain approximately 85 pounds and plug-in hybrid EVs use 132 pounds. While battery BEVs contain 183 pounds, a hybrid electric bus and a battery electric bus contain 196 and 814 pounds of copper, respectively.
EV Industry on Fire, Copper Prospects Rosy
With rising awareness about greenhouse gases and their effect on global climate, several companies are aiming to reach carbon neutrality in the near term and the number of EV model launches is rapidly increasing. China, Europe, United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States and other countries are laying out ambitious targets to phase out gas-powered vehicles. Per Deloitte projections, worldwide EV sales are set to see a CAGR of 29% over the next decade. Market Research Future expects the global EV market to reach $893.5 billion by 2027, representing a CAGR of 21.6% over 2021-2027 timeframe. The Boston Consulting Group projects EVs to more or less account for a third of the global auto industry by 2025, and more than 50% by 2030, indicating a massive jump from 2.6% in 2019.
Amid rising popularity of EVs, the demand for copper is likely to jump. Per the International Energy Agency, clean energy technologies will account for around 45% of copper demand in 2040, higher than 24% in 2020. Per Fastmarkets MB, adoption of EV vehicles will see global refined copper demand rise by 21% per year until 2030, reaching around 2.5 million tons in 2030. The International Copper Association estimates the EV boom to lift copper demand in green vehicles from 185,000 tons in 2017 to 1.74 million tons by 2027. Wood Mackenzie estimates that the growth in EV charging portals will result in the consumption of more than 250% more copper than the 2019 levels.
Stocks to Keep a Tab On
With copper being a key component powering EVs, here are some copper stocks that should be on your watchlist.
FreeportMcMoRan Inc. FCX: This Phoenix-based miner is expected to gain from progress in exploration activities that will boost production capacity. The company will benefit from the ongoing large-scale concentrator expansion project at Cerro Verde that will provide incremental annual production of around 600 million pounds of copper and 15 million pounds of molybdenum. It recently completed the Lone Star copper leach project and is on track to produce around 200 million pounds of copper annually. Efforts to cut costs and debt levels appear encouraging. The company currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and has a long-term expected EPS growth rate of 28.7%. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Southern Copper Corporation SCCO: This Mexico-based mining company has the largest copper reserves in the industry and operates high-quality, world-class assets in investment grade countries, such as Mexico and Peru. It has growth projects on track that will help achieve its target of producing 1.9 million tons of copper production by 2028.Backed by its commitment to increase low-cost production and growth investments, the company is well poised to continue delivering enhanced performance. It currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 and has a long-term expected EPS growth rate of 18.7%.
BHP Group BHP: Headquartered in Melbourne, this natural resources firm is engaged in the production of petroleum, copper, iron, and coal. The firm owns a copper mine in Chile and South Australia. In 2020, BHP produced around 1.7 million tons of copper. The company is expanding its mine at Spence in Chile, extending its life for another 50 years. It has also boosted exploration spending for more copper from all over the world. Efforts to make operations more efficient through smart technology adoption across the entire value chain will continue to aid in reducing costs, thereby bolstering the company’s margins. It currently has a Zacks Rank #1 and a long-term expected EPS growth rate of 4.1%.
Teck Resources TECK: Vancouver-based Teck is a significant copper producer in the Americas, with four operating mines in Canada, Chile and Peru, and copper development projects in North and South America. The firm’s Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) copper project surpassed the half-way point in April. Once completed, QB2 will transform the company’s copper business, making it a major global copper producer. The company anticipates to produce 275,000-290,000 tons of copper in 2021, higher than 257,500 tons in 2020. Carrying a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), the company has a long-term expected EPS growth rate of 20.2%.
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