Comparing the Material Makeup of EVs vs. Conventional Cars

Aaron Foyer
Comparing the Material Makeup of EVs vs. Conventional Cars

Currently there are over 1.4 billion vehicles on earth that would not exist without minerals.

A recent exhibit of a Chevrolet Lumina Minivan illustrated where and what minerals and mineral specimens are required in the production of that vehicle.

Over 40 rock/mineral groups were required to build this minivan.

Comparing vehicle makeups

In a study by UBS (2017) comparing an electric car, the Chevy Bolt, to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE), the Volkswagen (VW) Golf, it was determined that the highest deviation in weight shares were in copper, aluminum, battery active materials and rare earths.

The Bolt is 22% heavier than the Golf, mainly due to the battery pack.

The Bolt has approximately 140 kilograms of active materials in the battery cells including nickel, cobalt, lithium, manganese and graphite.  As well, in the e-motor there is around 1 kilogram of rare earths, in particular neodymium and dysprosium.  The two vehicles were found to have the same amount of rubber.

The Bolt versus Golf comparative analysis indicates that a shift to electric cars will likely result in significant market impacts for aluminum, copper, precious metals, rare earths and active battery materials.

Materials Market Demand Impacts

UBS examined a commodity market scenario where 100% of the vehicles sold globally were Chevrolet Bolts (using its current battery chemistry), instead of today’s vehicle sales mix.

Lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel, and rare earths markets would experience tremendous growth in demand while the platinum group metals would experience a significant decline. 

Though plastics materials were not indicated, it was noted that it was expected that there would be a moderately higher use of plastics. Plastics typically make up 50%, by volume (less than 10% by weight), of a new light vehicle (GPCA).

According to a recent study by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the use of plastics and polymer composite in North American light vehicles increased 13.2% (47 pounds (lbs)) in 2020 to a total average of 407 lbs per vehicle.

As the transportation market continues to grow along with the demand for electric vehicles, pressure will continue to increase on critical mineral resources.


ACC – American Chemistry Council

GPCA – Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association

ICE – internal combustion engine

lb – pound

UBS – derived from the Union Bank of Switzerland

VW – Volkswagen