Applying life-cycle assessment to nanotechnology: Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles

(Nanowerk News) The final report for the life-cycle assessment (LCA) of current and emerging energy systems used in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles conducted by the DfE/ORD Li-ion Batteries and Nanotechnology Partnership is now available. The LCA results will help to promote the responsible development of these emerging energy systems, including nanotechnology innovations in advanced batteries, leading to reduced overall environmental impacts and the reduced use and release of more toxic materials.
This partnership was led by EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) Program, in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, and the National Risk Management Research Laboratory, in EPA's Office of Research and Development.
The partnership conducted a screening-level life-cycle assessment (LCA) of currently manufactured lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technologies for electric vehicles, and a next generation battery component (anode) that uses single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) technology.
A quantitative environmental LCA of Li-ion batteries was conducted using primary data from both battery manufacturers and recyclers--and the nanotechnology anode currently being researched for next-generation batteries.
This type of study had not been previously conducted, and was needed to help grow the advanced-vehicle battery industry in a more environmentally responsible and efficient way. The LCA results are expected to mitigate current and future impacts and risks by helping battery manufacturers and suppliers identify which materials and processes are likely to pose the greatest impacts or potential risks to public health or the environment throughout the life cycle of their products. The study identifies opportunities for environmental improvement, and can inform design changes that will result in the use of less toxic materials and reduced overall environmental impacts, and increased energy efficiency.
The opportunities for improving the environmental profile of Li-ion batteries for plug-in and electric vehicles identified in the draft LCA study have the potential to drive a significant reduction of potential environmental impacts and risks, given that advanced batteries are an emerging and growing technology.
The study also demonstrates how the life-cycle impacts of an emerging technology and novel application of nanomaterials (i.e., the SWCNT anode) can be assessed before the technology is mature, and provides a benchmark for future life-cycle assessments of this technology.
Source: EPA
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