Electric car batteries could be greener says EPA study

16 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Electric car batteries could be greener says EPA study отключены
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Electric car batteries could be greener, says EPA study

Batteries used for electric cars could become greener and this should be a priority to help improve the environmental argument for EVs, according to a new study.

While modern lithium ion batteries show overall promise for reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to petrol-fuelled cars and nickel metal-hydride battery-powered cars, some of the materials and production procedures should be improved to reduce possible environmental and public health impacts, the ‘cradle to grave’ study from ABT Associates for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concludes.


For example, batteries which use cathodes with nickel and cobalt as well as solvent-based electrode processing, show the highest potential for certain environmental and human health impacts. The environmental impacts include resource depletion, global warming, and ecological toxicity-primarily resulting from the production, processing and use of cobalt and nickel metal compounds, which can cause adverse respiratory, pulmonary and neurological effects in those exposed.

There are viable ways to reduce these impacts, he said, including cathode material substitution, solvent-less electrode processing and recycling of metals from the batteries.

Tightening the environmental case for EVs

The study, carried out through a partnership with EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the li-ion battery industry, and academics, is the first life-cycle assessment to bring together and use data directly provided by li-ion battery suppliers, manufacturers, and recyclers. Its purpose is to identify the materials or processes within a li-ion battery’s lifecycle that may have cause for concern, so that battery manufacturers could use this information to improve the environmental profile of their products, while they are still in early stages of development.

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It also sought to evaluate the potential impacts of a nanotechnology innovation (such as carbon nanotube anode) that could improve battery performance.

Among other findings, the researchers at ABT Associates found that much of the global warming and other environmental and health impacts were influenced by the electricity grids used to charge the batteries when driving the vehicles.

These impacts are sensitive to local and regional grid mixes, Shanika Amarakoon, an Abt associate who co-led the study. If the batteries in use are drawing power from the grids in the Midwest or South [regions of the USA], much of the electricity will be coming from coal-fired plants. If it’s in New England or California, the grids rely more on renewables and natural gas, which emit less greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants. However, she added, impacts from the processing and manufacture of these batteries should not be overlooked.

In terms of battery performance, Jay Smith, an Abt senior analyst who led the study with Amarakoon, said, the nanotechnology applications that Abt assessed were single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which are currently being researched for use as anodes as they show promise for improving the energy density and ultimate performance of the li-ion batteries in vehicles. What we found, however, is that the energy needed to produce the SWCNT anodes in these early stages of development is prohibitive. Over time, if researchers focus on reducing the energy intensity of the manufacturing process before commercialization, the environmental profile of the technology has the potential to improve dramatically.

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