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What Is the Environmental Impact of Lithium Batteries?

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-08-23      Origin: Site

Although electric vehicles are emission-free, at least when they are powered by electricity from renewable sources, they still cause a climate impact which derives from the manufacturing of the car and not least the battery. Mining and refining of battery materials, and manufacturing of cells, modules and pack requires significant amounts of energy which could generate greenhouse gases emissions.

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 (e.g. Nissan Leaf) and 100 kWh (e.g. Tesla) 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 (for its light weight) but is a very energy-intensive material, representing 17% of the total battery's carbon footprint.

The cells represent the majority of the energy and carbon footprint of the production of lithium battery. Specifically, 40% ofLithium 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 (NCM) and lithium are processed into cathode powder.

The actual cell production is the second most energy-demanding activity and represents 20% of the total CO2/kWh (14 kg CO2/kWh). This number is highly dependent on the plant's capacity as many of the energy-intensive activities in cell production relate to drying and heating which is taking place in large rooms where the energy used remains the same no matter if one or several thousands of cells are in production.

One of the reasons for the high carbon footprint of producing lithium batteries is the source of energy used during the manufacturing process. Nowadays, the batteries are made in countries where the mix of energy is not so clean.

Reuse of old electric car's batteries is possible and is happening more and more!

Once it has reached the end of its "automotive" life, the lithium-ion battery is ready for a second life. Its performance is still enough to serve an array of purposes like stationary energy storage. Stationary energy battery storage acts as a buffer to manage discrepancies between supply and demand of cleaner but less predictable energy solutions, such as wind and solar.

Old batteries can also be used for other purposes such as powering street lights (coupled with solar panels) and houses projects funded by Europe are finding solutions for two pilot cities (the Portuguese city of Évora and the Dutch city of Alkmaar) so that second-life batteries will be installed in selected homes.

An international car's manufacturer is using the islands of Belle-Île-en-Mer and Porto Santo as the laboratory for full-scale tests on storage using electric vehicle batteries and the local distribution of green electricity produced by local renewable energy sources.

Another initiative on the Seine in Paris involves reconditioned batteries fitted into the pleasure boats in the Paris Yacht Marina.

Lithium is finite and it cannot be recycled (yet), but in fact, many other parts of the batteries including copper and nickel can definitely be recycled. The percentage of lithium in electric car batteries is low (5-7%) and during the recycling process, this lithium is lost. In order to overcome that issue, researchers in Sweden and Norway are already working on methods to find ways to recycle lithium as well.

However, recycling lithium batteries is still not economically viable. Once more units of old batteries are available the price will go down. Unfortunately, right now, the client has to pay if they want the old car battery to be recycled.

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