"The electric vehicle revolution is happening and its impact is likely to be felt faster than expected," Ivan Glasenberg told a mining conference in Barcelona.
"Virtually all automotive players are now accelerating their investment in (and) adoption of electric vehicle technologies." Glencore shares traded Tuesday afternoon at 293.25 pence ($3.78), up over 1%. European sales of battery powered cars climbed a record 38% in the first quarter of 2017, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association reported last week. Sales in the US leapt 49% over the same period, according to figures collated by Bloomberg.
Both of those increase could yet be dwarfed by sales in China and India, which have both outlined ambitious plans to promote electric car sales. China said in April it wants alternative fuel vehicle to account for at least one-fifth of all sales by 2025. India is drafting a plan to transform all vehicle on its road to electric engines by 2032.
Global electric vehicle sales could reach 52 million by 2025, according to figures collated from cumulative sales targets of different government. That compares to sale of about 774,000 in 2016, according to EVvolumes.com, a website that tracks plug in car sales. The increase in electric vehicle use will "have an outsize impact on metals markets," Glasenberg predicted.
Glencore quoted figures produced by BNP Paribas analysts that tipped 373,000 tons of new demand for copper and 40,000 tons of increased demand for nickel by 2020. That demand could rise to 1.65 million tons of copper and 210,000 tons of nickel by 2025. Electric cars require significantly more copper, nickel and cobolt than their petrol powered cousins.
For example an electric car requires about 38 kg of copper for its batteries, another 100kg for the engine itself and about 20kg for each charging point. By comparison, a luxury petrol car uses about 28kg of copper, according to the European Copper Institute. The increased demand is not being matched by increased output of key metals, according to Glencore.
Increases in the global copper resource base, which measures the total amount of copper contained in un-mined deposits flat lined in 2015 and 2016, while copper supplies are on course to peak in 2018 before falling, unless there is an upswing in new mine investment and new deposit discoveries, said the mining group.
"Higher commodities prices are require to incentivize reinvestment to offset a declining resource and aging asset base," said Glasenberg.