Carbon Footprint Of Lithium-ion Battery Production

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Are EVs Actually WORSE for the Environment?

*Environ. Sci. Technol.

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Opinion: Lets Be Honest Batteries Are Bad For The Environment

Batteries will play an important role in decarbonisation, but by ignoring their social and environmental costs, governments and investors will only exacerbate these problems.

Replacing internal combustion engines with lithium-ion batteries is seen as a way to resolve the damage done by vehicles to the environment, but batteries are not as green as many like to believe.

The proliferation of electric batteries in the automotive and power sectors could be one of the most important tools in the fight against climate change.

The worlds leading car manufacturers have gone from dipping a toe to plunging their feet in the electric vehicle market, which will lead to an explosion of EV manufacturing in Europe and elsewhere.

Driven by legislation and changing consumer and investor sentiment, this gradual phasing out of internal combustion engines removes one of the biggest contributors of carbon emissions from the global energy system.

However, we cannot conveniently ignore the significant social and environmental cost of all this battery manufacturing. At a time when governments are introducing taxonomies for sustainable finance, the negative effects of battery production need to be considered fully.

Recycling A Lead Acid Battery

The good news is that according to the Battery Council International, 99% of lead-acid batteries, the most widely used batteries, are recyclable.

The lead is recovered, as well as the plastic tray of the battery, once the latter is shredded into pieces. As for the electrolyte, the liquid at the bottom of the battery made up of acid and water, it can be recovered and reused as such by part of the industry, or decomposed by removing the water so that only the acid is finally used. One last point, all the more important given the importance of the carbon footprint of transport: the recovery of old batteries for recycling is coupled with the delivery of new batteries.

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Co2 Output From Making An Electric Car Battery Isn’t Equal To Driving A Gasoline Car For 8 Years

If Your Time is short

  • Production of a lithium-ion battery for an electric vehicle emits carbon dioxide equivalent to operating a gasoline car for about one or two years, depending on where the battery is produced.
  • The carbon emission from battery production can be quickly offset once an electric car is in operation, because it has no tailpipe emissions.

Electric vehicles are touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline powered cars, but one Facebook post claims that the benefits are overblown, and the vehicles are much more harmful to the planet than people assume.

A on April 29, shows a car in one panel with “diesel” written on the side and the driver thinking “I feel so dirty.” In another panel, a car has “electric” written on its side with the driver thinking “I feel so clean.”

However, the electric vehicle is shown connected to what appears to be a factory thats blowing dark smoke into the air.

Below the cartoon is a caption that claims “manufacturing the battery for one electric car produces the same amount of CO2 as running a petrol car for eight years.”

This isnt a new line of criticism against electric vehicles. have taken aim at the carbon dioxide produced in the manufacturing of electric cars specifically the batteries to make the case that zero emissions vehicles arent necessarily clean.

Featured Fact-check

We rate this claim Mostly False.

Why Is Calculating The Environmental Footprint Of Batteries Challenging

Why Electric Cars Won

The value chain of lithium-ion batteries is complex: the production of the cells requires about 20 materials from different countries, which will go through several refining processes, again in several locations around the world and with various techniques. These raw materials then enter a highly energy-intensive manufacturing process, with varying impacts on the climate depending on the energy source used. Getting reliable data on the impact of these materials is tricky.

The second challenge presented by this calculation is that cells are first assembled in modules by the battery manufacturers, and then the modules are assembled by the automotive manufacturers in battery packs made of different materials and using different production processes which also influence the carbon footprint of the battery. Identifying the boundaries of the different activities, who is responsible for what and what emissions are being produced isnt simple.

And then there is the third difficulty: calculating the carbon impact of the batterys end of life and recycling. Recycling batteries is a fairly new area and many uncertainties remain. At this stage, we dont know how to include the benefits of recycling in the calculation.

Notwithstanding the fact that current methodologies often do not consider the use phase. During this phase, the local energy mix from which the electricity used to charge the battery also influences the carbon footprint.

Accelerating sustainable mobility for all

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The Carbon Footprint Of Batteries

TheSwedish Environmental Research Agency has attempted to calculate the carbon footprint of a lithium-ion battery by compiling the results of some 40 international studies. The result: it’s complicated…

According to the agency, each kWh of batteries produced would generate the equivalent of 150 to 200 kilograms of CO2, a figure based on the world’s predominantly fossil fuel energy mix . According to this estimate, the production of a 30 kWh battery would generate around 5 tonnes of CO2, while that of a Tesla would exceed 17 tonnes. These figures differ from those communicated by ADEME in 2013, which took into account the entire life cycle of batteries…

New Report On Climate Impact Of Electric Car Batteries

A new IVL report commissioned by the Swedish Energy Agency targets climate emissions associated with electric car battery manufacture. The study is based on life cycle analyses and is an update of an earlier report from 2017.

“The number of electric cars is expected to increase rapidly in the years to come. This means that if we are to reduce climate impact, battery production must be energy efficient and utilize as little fossil electricity as possible,” says Lisbeth Dahllöf, researcher at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

In addition to climate emissions from battery production, the report addresses supply risks related to metals contained in lithium-ion batteries and the recycling of end-of-life batteries.

According to new calculations, the production of lithium-ion batteries on average emits somewhere between 61-106 kilos of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilowatt-hour battery capacity produced. If less transparent data is included, the upper value will be higher 146 kilos carbon dioxide equivalents per kilowatt hour produced. The large emissions range primarily depends on production methods and the type of electricity used in the battery manufacturing process. Current figures for climate emissions are lower than they were in the 2017 report where the average was 150-200 kilos of carbon dioxide equivalents per kWh of battery capacity.

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How Lithium Reduces Our Carbon Footprint

It is no secret that carbon levels in the atmosphere have been on the rise and are one of the primary concerns when it comes to global warming and environmental sustainability. One of the main sources of CO2 emissions and contributors to large carbon footprints are internal combustion engine vehicles the other is fossil fuel-based electricity generation.

In the next two decades, electric vehicles are set to dominate the auto industry, yet they face one major hurdle: battery storage. This is where lithium comes in. Lithium-ion batteries power our laptops and cell phones now, but they will also become the key driving force for electric vehicles because of their light weight, and high energy density. An impactful and game-changing energy material, lithium is set to define the EV industry due to its unique energy-storing properties and its relatively low environmental impact. Inherently less polluting than a traditional ICEV, electric vehicles and their lithium-ion batteries will be part of a major transition away from fossil-fuel vehicles.

EnergyX has done the calculations:

Large Differences In Battery Emissions

Lithium-ion battery recycler Ascend Elements focuses on upcycling old batteries

Both the ifo study and the ICCT analysis rely on the same estimate of emissions from battery manufacturing: a 2017 study by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute . IVL examined studies published between 2010 and 2016, and concluded that battery manufacturing emissions are likely between 150 and 200 kg CO2-equivalent per kWh of battery capacity.

The majority of studies examined by IVL looked at battery production in Asia, rather than in the US or Europe. The IVL study also noted that battery technology was evolving rapidly and that there is great potential for reduction in manufacturing emissions.

The IVL study came under considerable criticism, and in late 2019 received a substantial revision. The IVL researchers now estimate that battery manufacturing emissions are actually between 61 and 106 kg CO2-equivalent per kWh, with an upper bound of 146 kg. The low end estimate of 61 kg is for cases when the energy used from battery manufacturing comes from zero-carbon sources. IVL suggests that this revision was driven by new data for cell production, including more realistic measurements of energy use for commercial-scale battery factories that have substantially expanded in scale and output in recent years.

As the IVL study notes:

Manufacturing stands for a large part of the production impactThis implies that production location and/or electricity mix has great potential to impact the results.

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Problematic Fuel Economy Estimates

The ifo study provides an example of the potential pitfalls of using test-cycle fuel economy values instead of real-world performance. The study compared the lifetime emissions from a Mercedes C 220 to the new Tesla Model 3, taking into account emissions associated with vehicle production. It found that the Tesla had emissions between 90% and 125% of the Mercedes over the lifetime of the vehicle.

In other words, despite the headlines it generated, even ifo found that EVs ranged from being slightly better to somewhat worse than a diesel vehicle.

The study assumed a fuel economy of 52 miles per gallon for the Mercedes, which is significantly higher than the average car in the US , but similar to average fuel economy in the UK . However, different fuel-economy testing procedures produce quite different results.

While the US EPA fuel economy numbers tend to reflect actual driving conditions, the New European Driving Cycle values used in the EU exaggerate actual vehicle fuel economy by up to 50% and potentially even more for Mercedes vehicles.

The Tesla Model 3 energy use assumed in the study , by contrast, is only 8% smaller than the EPA estimates of real-world use . Using more realistic estimates of fuel economy for the conventional vehicle would have a large effect on the results of the ifo analysis, making the EV option preferable to the conventional vehicle.

What Is The Environmental Impact Of Lithium Batteries

  • What is the environmental impact of lithium batteries?
  • Although electric vehicles are emission-free, at least when they are powered by electricity fromrenewable sources, they still cause a climate impact which derives from the manufacturing of the car and notleast the battery. Mining and refining of battery materials, and manufacturing of cells, modules and packrequires significant amounts of energy which could generate greenhouse gases emissions.

    Environmental impact of lithium batteries

    Electric cars are moved by lithium batteries and their production entails high CO2 emissions.

    The cost of lithium batteries is around 73 kg CO2-equivalent/kWh . Production of a single battery with a range of 40 kWh and 100 kWh emit 2920 kg and 7300 kg of CO2, respectively.

    A lithium-ion battery can be divided into three main components: the cells, which contain the active materials, the battery management system, and the pack, which is the structure the cells are mounted in.

    Aluminium is important for the pack component but is a very energy-intensive material, representing 17% of the total batterys carbon footprint .

    The cells represent the majority of the energy and carbon footprint of the production of lithium battery. Specifically, 40% of the total climate impact of the battery comes from the from mining, conversion and refining step of the active materials of cells where Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt and lithium are processed into cathode powder .

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    Calculating The Carbon Footprint Of Li

    The ACC project has been developed in line with the EU and French objectives to contribute to the energy transition. To be consistent with these objectives, we need to continually work to make the carbon footprint of our products as low as possible.

    Our Corporate Social Responsibility approach therefore naturally started with the calculation of our products carbon footprint. Not only this is a must to help us to identify our main CSR impacts and make the right decisions to improve our environmental performance, but this assessment gave us a starting point to track our progresses on the long run.

    On paper, calculating the carbon footprint of batteries seemed simple enough and several methods have been proposed by the EU and other organizations over the years. But in reality, accurately measuring the environmental footprint, in particular the carbon footprint of batteries, is extremely challenging.

    Factcheck: How Electric Vehicles Help To Tackle Climate Change

    Is nickel sustainable in electric vehicle batteries?

    13.05.2019 | 5:01pmFactchecks

    Update 7/2/2020: The lifecycle emissions figures were revised to reflect more recent data on electricity carbon intensity and battery manufacture.

    Electric vehicles are an important part of meeting global goals on climate change. They feature prominently in mitigation pathways that limit warming to well-below 2C or 1.5C, which would be inline with the Paris Agreements targets.

    However, while no greenhouse gas emissions directly come from EVs, they run on electricity that is, in large part, still produced from fossil fuels in many parts of the world. Energy is also used to manufacture the vehicle and, in particular, the battery.

    Here, in response to recent misleading media reports on the topic, Carbon Brief provides a detailed look at the climate impacts of EVs. In this analysis, Carbon Brief finds:

    There are also large uncertainties around the emissions associated with electric vehicle battery production, with different studies producing widely differing numbers. As battery prices fall and vehicle manufacturers start including larger batteries with longer driving ranges, battery production emissions can have a larger impact on the climate benefits of electric vehicles.

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    Orion Engineered Carbons Shapes Future Of Lithium

    HOUSTON—-Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. , a leading global supplier of specialty and high-performance carbon black, has joined the HiQ-CARB consortium to provide the lithium-ion battery industry with sustainable and high-performance carbon additives.

    Seven leading European industry players, research institutes, and universities are collaborating on the European Union-funded HiQ-CARB project to design and scale up innovative battery materials including Orions high-purity, conductive acetylene black with very low carbon footprints to meet rapidly expanding market demands.

    The European Commissions overarching mission is to combat climate change by achieving carbon dioxide neutrality. Reaching this target by 2050 requires dedicated innovation and transition across a number of industries, of which energy and mobility are expected to advance faster than others.

    At Orion, we recognize the requirements for advanced materials and are determined to contribute to a sustainable future, said Sandra Niewiem, PhD, senior vice president, Global Specialty Carbon Black and EMEA Region, Orion Engineered Carbons. We are pleased to actively contribute to further development of sustainable, high-performing lithium-ion batteries, as our acetylene black has the lowest carbon footprint on the market.

    Forward-Looking Statements

    Tips For Reducing And Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint

    As with all the other products we consume that have a significant carbon footprint, in order to reduce our carbon footprint we must try to make the batteries last as long as possible.

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