The new generation of batteries can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of electric vehicles
Fixed battery experts refer to the next generation of pre-electric batteries. According to a new study, in addition to higher safety, longer range, faster charging and a lower price, compared to current batteries, they also have a lower carbon footprint.
Batteries are the fastest growing energy storage technology and will play a key role in meeting European climate goals. At the same time, it is the most important part of electric vehicles, which usually creates more than half of the total price of vehicles.
Currently, lithium-ion batteries dominate the market. However, car companies and the public society are already actively discussing the next generation batteries. Which technology it will be is not yet clear. Favorites are called solid-state batteries. They use solid electrolytes instead of liquid or gel ones found in lithium-ion batteries. Car companies expect that they will be on the market in the second half of the decade.
“Elektromobiles are now on the planet much more profitable than burning oil and the carbon footprint of batteries is decreasing every year. “Fixed battery technology, however, represents a fundamental change, because its higher energy density means that much less material is needed for its production, and thus emissions,” said the author of the Transport&Environment (T&E) study think tank Cecilia Mattea.
Expectations are high
The study assessed the life cycle of solid batteries and compared the results with current technologies. This is one of the first studies focused on the climate impacts of new technology. The results show that the carbon footprint of solid batteries is 24 to 39 percent lower. It depends on the materials used in production.
“Expectations regarding the potential benefits of solid batteries, which are supposed to replace lithium-ion batteries, are high,” the study states. The professional community has known for a long time that these batteries can store more energy with fewer materials, thanks to which they can guarantee a longer range of vehicles. It’s also safer and charges faster. However, not much was known about climate impacts until now.
The results of the study show that fixed batteries have a lower carbon footprint than at the beginning of the life cycle, that is from the battery production itself.
Despite the lower carbon footprint, the study also identified so-called “emission hotspots” of various batteries. This means the parts of the life cycle in which the total emissions are accumulated. In the case of solid batteries, it is mainly lithium metal used in the anode. This is because solid-state batteries will require, on average, more than a third more lithium than current technologies. At the same time, much less graphite and cobalt are used in production.
Supply chain sustainability
The degree of climate benefits of solid-state batteries compared to lithium-ion batteries depends on the sustainability of supply chains. This means that it depends on where the materials come from and whether they are original raw materials or recycled materials.
New mining technologies, including obtaining lithium from geothermal wells, can help reduce the carbon footprint. These have a significantly lower carbon footprint than traditional lithium mining from hard rock. More than half of lithium currently comes from Australia, from where it is transported to China, where it is refined and exported to the rest of the world.
T&E is pinning its hopes on the modification of the battery directive, which is currently being negotiated by the European Commission, the Parliament and the member states within the trialogue. According to analysts, the directive should support the production and use of technologies with lower emissions and ensure effective recycling of used batteries. In its original proposal, the Commission already expects recycling targets for batteries at the level of 70 percent. Analysts say the targets should be raised to as much as 90 percent.
“Changing the way raw materials are obtained and processed in solid batteries will further reduce their impact on the climate. Improving the methods used in the supply chain will be key. The Battery Directive is an opportunity to ensure that every battery produced or sold in Europe comes from cleaner sources, has a lower carbon footprint and is recycled at the end of its life,” added Mattea.
Published by CVTI