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Research for TRAN Committee - Battery-powered electric vehicles: market development and lifecycle emissions STUDY

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As 2018 gets under way, there are probably more than three million electric cars in circulation in the world. There are also more than six hundred million electric bikes, scooters and motorcycles. Plus a few hundred thousand electric buses and other types of quadricycles having an electric motor. The first part of this paper traces the fast evolving market of electric road vehicles. The second part shows that the production of hundreds of millions of battery packs requires a lot of energy and plenty of scarce resources, which affects the real impact of electric vehicles on the climate and the environment and make it necessary to consider the recovery and recycling of used batteries.
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DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR INTERNAL POLICIES
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
TRANSPORT AND TOURISM
Research for TRAN Committee -
Battery-powered electric vehicles: market
development and lifecycle emissions
STUDY
Abstract
As 2018 gets under way, there are probably more than three million
electric cars in circulation in the world. There are also more than six
hundred million electric bikes, scooters and motorcycles. Plus a few
hundred thousand electric buses and other types of quadricycles having
an electric motor. The first part of this paper traces the fast evolving
market of electric road vehicles.
The second part shows that the production of hundreds of millions of
battery packs requires a lot of energy and plenty of scarce resources,
which affects the real impact of electric vehicles on the climate and the
environment and make it necessary to consider the recovery and recycling
of used batteries.
PE 617.457 EN
2
This document was requested by the European Parliaments Committee on Transport and
Tourism.
LINGUISTIC VERSIONS
Original: EN
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER
To contact the Policy Department or to subscribe to updates on our work for the TRAN
Committee please write to: Poldep-cohesion@ep.europa.eu
Manuscript completed in February 2018
© European Union, 2018
Print ISBN 978-92-846-2668-7 doi:10.2861/038794 QA-02-18-139-EN-C
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Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source
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Battery-powered electric vehicles: market development and lifecycle emissions
_________________________________________________________________
3
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART 1:
THE DEVELOPMENT OF BATTERY–POWERED ROAD VEHICLES MARKET
5
PART 2:
RESOURCES, ENERGY, AND LIFECYCLE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION
ASPECTS OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES
15
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
_________________________________________________________________
4
PART 1
The development of battery–powered
road vehicles market
Abstract
This paper traces the fast evolving market of electric road vehicles
worldwide with focus on the European Union at the end of 2017.
IP/B/TRAN/NT/2018-04 2018
PE 617.456 EN
This document was requested by the European Parliaments Committee on Transport and
Tourism.
AUTHOR
Marc Thomas
Project and publication assistance: Virginija Kelmelyte
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, European Parliament
LINGUISTIC VERSIONS
Original: EN
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER
To contact the Policy Department or to subscribe to updates on our work for the TRAN
Committee please write to: Poldep-cohesion@ep.europa.eu
Manuscript completed in February 2018
© European Union, 2018
DISCLAIMER
The opinions expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the author and do not
necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament.
Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source
is acknowledged and the publisher is given prior notice and sent a copy.
The development of batterypowered road vehicles market
7
1. WORLD MARKET DEVELOPMENT1
At the end of 2016, there were just over 2 million electric cars2 in the world. This was
less than 0.2% of the global car fleet3, but this level was achieved in about seven years (the
sales of electric vehicles before 2010 are considered insignificant).
Figure 1: Global stock of electric cars (M1+N1), by year (BEV+PHEV)
In 2016, over 780,000 new electric cars were registered worldwide (of which 62% battery-
electric vehicles4). Annual sales growth, however, dropped below 50% for the first time (+37%
compared to 2015), the growth rate being on a downward trend since 2011.
Figure 2: Global sales of electric cars (M1+N1), by year (BEV and PHEV)
1 Sources: For the EU and Norway: European Alternative Fuel Observatory and EC, Joint Research Centre, Electric
vehicles in the EU from 2010 to 2014. For the USA: Hybridcars and Electric Drive Transportation Association. For
China, Japan and the rest of the world: International Energy Agency, Global electric vehicles outlook 2017.
2 “Cars” means passenger cars, including pickups and vans, and light commercial vehicles (LCV). Vehicles currently
on the market match EU categories M1 and N1. The categories of vehicles are those defined by Directive
2007/46/EC and Regulation EU No 168/2013.
3 According to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), there were around 1.3 billion
(passenger and commercial) vehicles in use in the world at the end of 2016 (including heavy trucks, coaches and
buses).
4 Battery-electric vehicles (BEV) derive their power only from their rechargeable battery packs. Plug-in hybrid
electric vehicles (PHEV) derive their power from their rechargeable battery packs and from an internal combustion
engine.
≈ 66,000
≈ 2,100,000
0
500.000
1.000.000
1.500.000
2.000.000
2.500.000
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
43.322
484.608
8.729
301.248
0
100.000
200.000
300.000
400.000
500.000
600.000
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
BEV PHEV
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
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The marketplace is highly concentrated. Together, the five largest markets accounted for
93% of 2016 global sales of electric cars. The same also accounted for almost 94% of the
world's fleet of such vehicles. Furthermore, according to the International Council on Clean
Transportation, nearly a third of global electric vehicle sales would be in just 14 metropolitan
areas5. Since 2015, China is by far the main sales place for electric cars, followed by the
EU and the US.
Figure 3: Global sales of electric cars (M1+N1), by year (BEV and PHEV)
5 ICCT, Electric vehicle capitals of the world (March 2017). Namely, in descending electric vehicle share: Oslo, Utrecht,
Shanghai, Shenzhen, Amsterdam, San Jose, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Beijing, Stockholm, Zürich, Los Angeles,
Paris and London.
6%
45%
35% 20%
20%
21%
36%
43%
26%
23%
27%
21%
9%
4%
3%
0
100.000
200.000
300.000
400.000
500.000
600.000
700.000
800.000
900.000
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Norway USA China EU Japan Others
The development of batterypowered road vehicles market
9
Figure 4: Global stock of electric cars (M1+N1) in 2016, by volume and market share
(Total BEV + PHEV ≈ 2,100,000)
Electric cars represent a tiny fraction of car sales. In 2016, this fraction was above 1%
only in Norway (29% of car sales), in China (1.4%) and, by a narrow margin, in the EU (1.1%).
In 2017, it reached 1.35% in the EU6.
Globally, battery electric cars dominate the market (around 61% of world electric car stock at
the end of 2016). In 2016, this was the case in China (75%), Norway (74%), Japan (57%) and
the USA (52%). In the EU, BEV and PHEV are at the same level, but the situation differs greatly
between Member States.
6 Based on 16.6 million new vehicles registered in the EU in 2016, and 17.1 million in 2017 (categories M1 and N1).
Source: European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA). In 2017, this share reached a peak of 32.4% in
Norway.
117,000
(5.5%)
560,000
(26%)
649,000
(31%)
505,000
(24%)
151,000
(7%)
133,000
(6.5%)
Norway USA China EU Japan Others
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
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The number of fuel cell vehicles is still very negligible 7. Similarly, heavy electric
vehicles are still rare. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there were around
345,000 electric buses in the world (mainly BEV) at the end of 2016. Almost all of them were
in China (343,500), about 1,200 were registered in the EU (M2 and M3 categories - this number
rose to just over 1,500 in 2017) and 200 in the United States. So far, the number of electric
heavy-goods vehicle is derisory.
It is worth mentioning that there are significant data classification issues for buses and coaches.
There are also no precise classifications/figures for “low-speed electric vehicles”, “two-
wheelers” and “three-wheelers” - for which international comparisons are unreliable. Moreover,
it is impossible to know precisely the global number of electric bicycles (e-bikes): while most
of them are made in China, in general importing countries (including the EU, the US and Japan)
do not distinguish them from their imports of conventional bicycles. In addition, the lifetime of
e-bikes in circulation is unknown.
According to the IEA, 200 to 230 million electric two-wheelers were in circulation in China in
2016 - this country being, by far, the world leader. In the same year, the European Alternative
Fuel Observatory listed about 14,000 electric motorbikes (categories L1 to L5) in the EU (this
number rose to approximately 18,000 in 2017).
Identically, China dominates the market of low-speed electric vehicles. It is estimated that
three to four million units were in circulation in this country in 2016, compared to around 20,000
in the EU (categories L6 and L7 - this number rose to about 21,000 in 2017).
China also strongly leads on the electric bike market. The most reliable estimates say that, in
2016, there were around 250 million e-bikes (all types) in circulation in the country,
and 30 million new electric bicycles are expected to be sold there every year. In the EU, 8.2
million e-bikes (all types) were sold between 2006 to 2016. In Japan (where e-bikes emerged
in the early 1980s and, unlike other markets, local production largely outweighs imports)
550,000 e-bikes were sold in 2016, but the national stock of electric bike cannot be accurately
assessed. The US situation is equally unclear. While all e-bikes or parts thereof are imported
from China, the absence of a specific customs code makes these imports difficult to identify.
The highest estimates say that between 211,000 and 251,000 e-bikes were sold throughout
the country in 2016. On the other hand, a study by the consultancy NAVIGANT estimates this
number to be little more than 137,0008.
7 Fuel cell vehicles use a fuel cell to generate electricity to power their electric motor.
8 NAVIGANT; electric bicycles
The development of batterypowered road vehicles market
11
2. EU MARKET DEVELOPMENT
At the end of 2017, there were around 738,000 electric cars (M1 and N1 categories) in the EU,
i.e. roughly 0.2% of the Union’s car fleet9.
Year 2017 broke a sales record with about 232,000 new electric cars registered (+37%
compared to 2016). Since 2015, PHEV sales exceed BEV sales (in 2017, the ratio was 48-to-
52).
Figure 5: Annual sales of electric cars (M1+N1) in the EU (BEV and PHEV)
As at the global level, the EU marketplace is very concentrated. In 2017, four Member States
accounted for 74% of EU sales of electric cars (Germany, UK, France and Sweden). In the same
year, the same countries plus the Netherlands concentrated 80% of the EU fleet of such
vehicles10.
9 In 2016 (most recent available data), there were about 290,000,000 passenger cars (M1) and light commercial
vehicles (N1) in use in the EU (Source: ACEA).
10 Note that in the Netherlands the sales of electric cars peaked in 2015 (at about 45,000 vehicles), and then halved
in 2016 and halved again in 2017 (at less than 10,000 vehicles). Conversely, in Germany the sales increased more
than twofold from 2016 to 2017 (from around 27,500 to 58,000).
11.018
111,543
357
120.694
0
20.000
40.000
60.000
80.000
100.000
120.000
140.000
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
BEV PHEV
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
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Figure 6: Sales of electric cars (M1+N1) in the EU, by volume and market share
(BEV+PHEV)
40%
20%
28%
14%
4%
19%
18%
16%
19%
18%
19%
19%
24% 21%
13%
17%
15% 16%
25%
6% 8%
9%
2%
4%
12%
15%
16%
0
50.000
100.000
150.000
200.000
250.000
2011 2010 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
NL FR UK DE SE IT ES Others
The development of batterypowered road vehicles market
13
Figure 7: Stock of electric cars (M1+N1) in the EU in 2017, by volume and market
share (Total BEV + PHEV ≈ 738,000)
Electric cars represent only a tiny fraction of EU car sales (1.35% in 2017). In 2017, this fraction
was above 1% in ten Member States - among which Sweden (4.7%) particularly stood out.
Figure 8: Market shares of electric cars (M1+N1) in the EU Member States in 2017
(BEV+PHEV) (in % of new cars registered that year)
123,000
(17%)
136,000
(18%)
137,000
(18.5%)
144,000
(19.5%)
51,000
(7%)
20,000
(3%)
15,000
(2%)
112,000
(15%)
NL FR DE UK SE ES IT 21 other MS
4.7%
0,00%
0,50%
1,00%
1,50%
2,00%
2,50%
3,00%
3,50%
4,00%
4,50%
5,00%
AT BE BG HR CY CZ DK EE FI FR DE EL HU IE IT LV LT LU MT NL PL PT RO SK SI ES SE UK
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
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Plug-in hybrid electric cars (PHEV) slightly dominate the market (about 51% of EU electric car
stock at the end of 2017) but the situation differs greatly between Member States. For instance
in the Netherlands, 80% of electric cars in circulation in 2017 were PHEV, whereas this
proportion was 73% in Sweden and 64% in the UK. By contrast, battery electric cars (BEV)
dominated in France (79%), Spain (67%), Italy (61%) and Germany (55%).
Fuel cell (FC) vehicles have been commercially available since 2013. Their numbers are still
very negligible. Less than 500 FC cars and 200 FC LCVs11 are currently registered in the EU, as
well as 65 FC buses.
Identically, the number of heavy electric vehicles is very small, at around 2,200 buses (M2 and
M3 categories).
At the end of 2017, there were also about 18,000 (+20% year on year) electric motorbikes
(categories L1 to L5) and 21,000 low-speed electric vehicles (categories L6 and L7) registered
in the EU.
Finally, according to the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI), over 8.2
million (all types) of electric bikes were sold in the EU between 2006 and 2016 (i.e. about 3.7%
of total bike sales over the period). In 2016, sales totalled 1.7 million e-bikes which represents
a 22% increase compared to 2015. In the same year, Germany (36%), the Netherlands (16%)
and Belgium (10%) together accounted for 62% of the EU market. (2017 figures not yet
available)
Figure 9: Annual sales of electric bikes in the EU and related bike market share
11 Of the 194 FC LCVs registered in the EU at the end of 2017, 182 were in France.
0%
1%
2%
3%
4%
5%
6%
7%
8%
9%
0
200.000
400.000
600.000
800.000
1.000.000
1.200.000
1.400.000
1.600.000
1.800.000
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Units sold Market share in %
PART 2
Resources, energy, and lifecycle
greenhouse gas emission aspects of
electric vehicles
Abstract
This report covers topics associated with the production and recycling of
lithium-ion traction batteries and lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of
fully battery-powered electric vehicles. It describes in particular material
and energy use in battery production, and the climate change impacts of
electric vehicles. The effects of the battery, vehicle size and the sources
of charging electricity are discussed. Prospective developments in battery
production and the power sector and their effect on lifecycle greenhouse
gas emissions are also discussed.
IP/B/TRAN/IC/2017-068 2018
PE 602.015 EN
This document was requested by the European Parliaments Committee on Transport and
Tourism.
AUTHORS
NTNU: Linda Ager-Wick ELLINGSEN, Christine Roxanne HUNG
Project manager: Anders Hammer STRØMMAN
Research manager: Marc Thomas
Project and publication assistance: Adrienn Borka
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, European Parliament
LINGUISTIC VERSIONS
Original: EN
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER
To contact the Policy Department or to subscribe to updates on our work for the TRAN
Committee please write to: Poldep-cohesion@ep.europa.eu
Manuscript completed in January 2018
© European Union, 2018
Please use the following reference to cite this study:
Ellingsen, L. A-W. & Hung, C. R. 2018, Research for TRAN Committee Resources, energy, and
lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles, European Parliament, Policy
Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, Brussels
Please use the following reference for in-text citations:
Ellingsen & Hung (2018)
DISCLAIMER
The opinions expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the author and do not
necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament.
Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source
is acknowledged and the publisher is given prior notice and sent a copy.
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
17
CONTENTS
GLOSSARY AND LIST OF ACRONYMS 19
LIST OF FIGURES 21
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 23
1. BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES
WITH LITHIUM-ION TRACTION BATTERIES 25
2. BATTERY PRODUCTION 27
2.1. Cell materials and manufacture 28
2.2. Battery pack components and assembly 29
2.3. Energy demands in battery production 30
3. MINERAL USE, SUPPLY RISKS AND BATTERY RECYCLING 33
3.1. Supply risks associated with Li-ion batteries 36
3.2. End-of-life treatment of lithium-ion batteries 37
4. LIFECYCLE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
OF BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES 41
4.1. Lifecycle climate change impact 42
4.2. Other environmental impacts 46
5. CONCLUSIONS 49
REFERENCES 51
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
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Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
19
GLOSSARY AND LIST OF ACRONYMS
BEV
Fully battery-powered electric vehicle.
BMS
Battery management system.
EOL
End-of-life.
FDP
Fossil depletion potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the consumption of fossil-
based resources such as oil, natural gas and coal.
FEP
Freshwater eutrophication potential. Environmental
impact category associated with
the oversupply of
nutrients to freshwater environments, causing oxygen
deprivation and the death of larger life forms.
FETP
Freshwater ecotoxicity potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the release of toxic
compounds into freshwater environments.
GHG
Greenhouse gas.
Gravimetric energy
density
Energy density with respect to mass (as opposed to
volume), measured in kWh/kg.
GWP
Global warming potential. Environmental impact
category associated with climate change.
HTP
Human toxicity potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the release of toxic
compounds.
Hydrometallurgy
Recycling method using water-based solvents to
recover metals.
ICEV
Internal combustion engine vehicle.
LCA
Lifecycle assessment. Method for determining the
environmental impact of products or technologies.
LFP
Lithium iron phosphate. Active cathode material in
lithium-ion batteries.
LIB
Lithium-ion (traction) batteries.
LMO
Lithium manganese oxide. Active cathode material in
lithium-ion batteries.
MDP
Mineral resource depletion potential. Environmental
impact category associated with the consumption of
mineral resources.
MEP
Marine eutrophication potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the oversupply of nutrients to
marine environments, causing oxygen deprivation and
the death of larger life forms.
METP
Marine ecotoxicity potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the release of toxic
compounds into marine environments.
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NCA
Lithium nickel-cobalt-aluminium oxide. Active cathode
material in lithium-ion batteries.
NCM
Lithium nickel-cobalt-manganese oxide. Active cathode
material in lithium-ion batteries.
NEDC
New European Driving Cycle. Used to assess emissions
and the fuel economy of light duty vehicles.
NMP
N-methylpyrrolidone. Solvent used in lithium-ion
battery production.
ODP
Ozone depletion potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the release of compounds that
damage the ozone layer.
PMFP
Particulate matter formation potential. Environmental
imp
act category associated with the release of small
compounds which may be detrimental to human health.
Indicator for local air quality.
POFP
Photochemical oxidant formation potential.
Environmental impact category associated with the
release of smog-forming compounds. Indicator for local
air quality.
PHEV
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Hybrid electric vehicle
that has both an internal combustion engine and a
battery-powered
electric motor that can be recharged
by plugging it into an external source of power.
Pyrometallurgy
Recycling method using high temperatures to recover
metals.
TAP
Terrestrial acidification potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the release of compounds that
cause a change in the acidity of soils.
TETP
Terrestrial ecotoxicity potential. Environmental impact
category associated with the release of toxic
compounds into terrestrial environments.
WTW
Well-to-wheel cycle. Describes the value chain for
energy carriers (liquid fuels, electricity, natural gas or
hydrogen)
for vehicles, from resource extraction,
refining, transmission/transport and energy
conversion.
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
21
LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE 1
Production flow diagram for lithium-ion traction battery 27
FIGURE 2
Generic material composition of a Li-ion traction battery 33
FIGURE 3
Relative supply risk indicators and overall supply riskfor each element 37
FIGURE 4
The complete lifecycle of vehicles 42
FIGURE 5
Lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of battery electric and internal combustion
engine vehicles 43
FIGURE 6
Lifecycle environmental impacts of battery electric and internal combustion
engine vehicles 47
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22
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
23
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Battery electric vehicles with lithium-ion traction batteries
Fully battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have repeatedly been considered a promising alternative
to conventional internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), but have only recently attracted
wider consumer interest and gained acceptance due to progress in battery technology. As a
result of their higher gravimetric energy density, lithium-ion traction batteries permit longer
driving ranges than other battery technologies. They are therefore the battery of choice for
automobile manufacturers.
Battery production
Battery production can be subdivided into cell manufacture and pack assembly. Cell
manufacture is a complex and protracted process with stringent requirements in
relation to ambient indoor conditions and cleanliness in building zones as well as a
high demand for energy. Current battery cell manufacture primarily takes place in South
Korea, Japan, and China. In comparison to cell manufacture, pack assembly is a far less
complex and energy-intensive process. The battery packs are either assembled by a cell
manufacturer and then delivered to the automobile manufacturer or are assembled by the
automobile manufacturers themselves.
Mineral use, supply risks and recycling
Lithium-ion traction batteries are complex products containing a variety of materials, some of
which are or may become susceptible to supply risk. Minerals that are particularly susceptible
to supply risk in producing current lithium-ion traction batteries are: lithium (Li), aluminium
(Al), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), and graphite (C).
Lithium and cobalt are likely to be susceptible to the highest supply risk, while
aluminium involves the lowest risk. Manganese, iron, nickel, copper, and natural graphite have
medium supply risk. The improvement of recovery processes for these elements at the vehicle’s
end-of-life can, to some degree, alleviate these supply risks. As we move from fuel-intensive
ICEVs to materials-intensive BEVs, it becomes increasingly important to have efficient
recycling processes in place to ensure the optimal recovery of finite minerals as well as
energy- and pollution-intensive materials.
Lifecycle emissions of battery electric vehicles
In order for BEVs to provide a climate change mitigation alternative to ICEVs, they must have
lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. The BEV production phase is more
carbon-intensive than that of ICEVs, but BEVs can compensate for the higher production
emissions through lower use phase emissions. The carbon intensity of the electricity
consumed in the operation phase greatly influences the advantages or
disadvantages – of adopting BEVs in preference to ICEVs. Charging BEVs with electricity
from renewable energy sources offers significantly lower lifecycle emissions compared to ICEVs.
In contrast, BEVs charged using coal-based electricity yields higher lifecycle emissions than
ICEVs. Thus the potential climate benefits of BEVs compared to ICEVs cannot be harnessed
everywhere and under all conditions. Lifecycle assessment studies consistently report
moderate climate benefits for BEVs powered by the average European electricity mix
compared to ICEVs of a similar size.
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
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24
Regardless of powertrain configuration, smaller vehicles tend to be more energy efficient during
operation and generally have lower GHG emissions than larger ones. The trend towards
increasing the size and range of BEVs is unfavourable from both a climate mitigation and
resource use perspective. Thus, given the current state of the technology, striking the
right balance between battery and vehicle size and charging infrastructure is
important in maximising the climate change mitigation potential of BEVs.
The climate benefit of BEVs compared to ICEVs is expected to increase in the near future due
to changes in the European power sector and developments within cell manufacturing. The
expected decarbonisation of the European power sector should lead to an increase in
the environmental benefits of BEV use over time, particularly from a climate change
perspective. Decarbonisation of the electricity mix in cell-manufacturing countries would,
furthermore, be beneficial in terms of the battery production process. The most significant
change in cell manufacture in the near future is the large production volume of cells expected
from Tesla Gigafactory 1, which claims to be self-sufficient in renewable energy. Consequently,
GHG emissions from both production and use are expected to decrease in the coming years.
Achieving the goal of more sustainable transport solutions requires good environmental
understanding of our technologies. Battery producers and recyclers have to be more
transparent about the environmental implications of their product lines. An open
channel of communication between industry, government and researchers is essential if BEVs
are to succeed as a climate change mitigation initiative within the transport sector.
Figure E1: Lifecycle GHG emissions of mid-sized 24 kWh battery electric (left) and
internal combustion engine (right) vehicles.
Note: The vehicle’s operational lifetime is assumed to be 150 000 km.
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
25
1. BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES WITH LITHIUM-ION
TRACTION BATTERIES
KEY FINDINGS
In the EU, transport represents about 25 % of total GHG emissions and is a major
cause of air pollution in cities.
Passenger vehicles contribute the most to total emissions from road transport.
In spite of greater vehicle efficiency, emissions are still rising due to increasing travel
activity by passenger vehicles.
Battery electric vehicles are more efficient than conventional internal combustion
engine vehicles and produce zero tailpipe emissions, which makes them a strong
candidate for mitigating transport-related GHG emissions.
In spite of increased awareness of climate change and governments’ goals to reduce
anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the strong trend of increasing fossil GHG
emissions (Gabriel et al., 2014) remains. In the EU, transport represents roughly a quarter of
GHG emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in cities. Road transport is by far the
biggest contributor to transport-related GHG emissions in the EU, accounting for more than
70 % thereof. Currently, passenger vehicles contribute the most to total emissions from road
transport, and this trend is projected to continue.
Thus far, the emissions reductions arising from improvements in vehicle efficiency have not
been able to outstrip the additional emissions from increasing travel activity. Reducing GHG
emissions from passenger vehicles is expected to be particularly challenging, yet new
technologies have the potential to make substantial contributions to climate change mitigation
in the transport sector (Sims et al., 2014). Reducing the energy and fuel carbon intensities of
light-duty vehicles represents the greatest opportunity for achieving a large reduction in GHG
emissions (Sims et al., 2014). The energy efficiency of conventional vehicles is inherently
limited by the thermodynamics of the internal combustion engine to 2035 % (Sims et al.,
2014). By contrast, fully battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) operate with a powertrain
efficiency of around 80-90 % (Herrmann and Rothfuss, 2015; Sims et al., 2014). Furthermore,
BEVs may offer benefits in terms of local air quality as they have no tailpipe emissions. These
favourable characteristics make BEVs a strong candidate for mitigating transport-related GHG
and air pollutant emissions.
Although BEVs have been considered a promising technology on several occasions over the last
century, they have failed to achieve the same commercial success as internal combustion
engine vehicles (ICEVs) (Steinhilber et al., 2013). Limited technological progress, particularly
in relation to batteries, has been an important reason for the past failures to achieve large-
scale commercialisation. Until the 1990s, BEVs were mainly powered by lead-acid batteries,
resulting in very limited lifetimes and driving ranges (Dijk et al., 2013). In the late 1980s and
early 1990s, the increase in portable consumer goods resulted in a demand for new battery
technologies with higher energy density. By the late 1990s, one of these new technologies, the
nickel-metal hydride battery, was used to power BEVs. Even though nickel-metal hydride
battery packs offered improved energy density (Omar et al., 2012), the driving range was still
prohibitively short and the battery cost too high to gain consumer acceptance (Dijk et al.,
2013). It was only when lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) were introduced in the new generations of
BEVs (first in the Tesla Roadster in 2008 and the Nissan Leaf in 2010), that consumer interest
in and acceptance of BEVs increased.
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This report is structured as follows: Section 2 describes the current battery production process,
while section 3 addresses mineral use, supply risk and recycling issues related to LIBs. Section
4 discusses the GHG emissions associated with BEVs and important factors that contribute to
the overall emissions. This section also briefly considers other environmental impacts. Finally,
section 5 summarises and concludes the report.
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2. BATTERY PRODUCTION
KEY FINDINGS
Battery production can be subdivided into cell manufacture and battery pack
assembly.
Cell manufacture is a complex and protracted process with stringent requirements
in relation to ambient indoor conditions and cleanliness in building zones as well as a
high demand for energy.
In comparison to cell manufacture, pack assembly is a much less complex and
energy-intensive process.
This section describes the battery production processes together with their material and energy
use. The processes in battery production, including their material and energy use, must be
transparent for researchers in order to identify concretely and to understand the related
burdens on the environment. The main component of traction batteries is the battery cells,
which make up about 55-60 % of the total weight in a battery pack used in mid-sized BEVs
(e.g., Nissan Leaf, VW e-Golf, electric Ford Focus) (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016).
The remaining battery components are: the module and pack enclosure (32-38 % of the total
battery weight), the thermal management system (3 %), the battery management system
(BMS; 3 %) and the electrical system (1 %) (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016). The
processes associated with battery production are shown in Figure 1 and described below.
Battery production can be subdivided into cell manufacture and pack assembly processes. In
comparison to pack assembly, cell manufacture is a much more complex and protracted
process.
Figure 1: Production flow diagram for a lithium-ion traction battery.
Note: The white and grey boxes represent part/material flow and the manufacturing process, respectively. The blue
background indicates cell manufacture flows and processes, white is pack assembly. BMS = battery management
system.
Source: Figure adapted with permission from (Kim et al., 2016). Copyright 2016 American Chemical Society.
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2.1. Cell materials and manufacture
Cell manufacture is a complex and protracted process with stringent requirements in relation
to ambient indoor conditions and cleanliness in building zones since temperature, humidity,
and cleanliness have a significant impact on the quality, safety, performance, and lifetime of
the cells (Schönemann, 2017).
The first step in cell manufacture is the production of the cathode and anode. These two
components are produced in separate cleanrooms to avoid contamination (Väyrynen and
Salminen, 2012). The cathode (positive electrode) consists of an aluminium current collector
coated with a cathode material. The cathode material consists of the active material, a polymer
binder (usually polyvinylidene diflouroide), and a conductive additive (carbon black). Although
there are several active cathode materials available for use in LIBs, only a few of them are
currently used in BEVs. The currently used cathode materials are lithium nickel-cobalt-
manganese oxide (NCM) and lithium nickel-cobalt-aluminium oxide (NCA). In addition, these
cathode materials are also blended with lithium manganese oxide (LMO), forming LMO-NCM
and LMO-NCA. In some plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), lithium iron phosphate (LFP)
is also used, but it has an inadequate energy density for BEVs.
The anode (negative electrode) consists of a copper current collector coated with the anode
material. For traction batteries, the anode material consists of graphite, which is the active
anode material, and binders (e.g. carbon methyl cellulose, polyacrylic acid, and styrene
butadiene rubber). For both the cathode and the anode, the active material, binders, and
additives are mixed with solvents to obtain a slurry that can be coated on to the current
collectors. In Japan and South Korea, anodes are almost exclusively produced using a water-
based solvent (Wood et al., 2015). Use of water-based solvents with the cathode materials,
however, means that it remains difficult to thoroughly disperse these materials in water (Wood
et al., 2015). Thus cathodes are mainly produced using the N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) solvent
(Li et al., 2011; Wood et al., 2015). The resulting active-material slurries are fed into coating
machines to be spread on the metallic current collector foils (Li et al., 2011; Väyrynen and
Salminen, 2012). Many coating techniques exist, which means that there may be differences
in coating practices among battery cell manufacturers (Li et al., 2011; Schönemann, 2017).
After the coating process, the electrodes are dried at high temperatures to evaporate the
solvents (Schönemann, 2017; Väyrynen and Salminen, 2012). The coated and dried electrodes
are roll-pressed to ensure homogenous thickness and particle size (Daniel, 2008; Schönemann,
2017). The roll-pressed electrodes are then cut to size and notched to prepare them for tabbing
and further assembly (Daniel, 2008; Kim et al., 2016; Väyrynen and Salminen, 2012). After
cutting, the finished electrodes are vacuum-dried to remove any residual moisture (Kaiser et
al., 2014; Schönemann, 2017; Väyrynen and Salminen, 2012).
In a dry room, the separator, which is made of a porous plastic composite of polyethylene and
polypropolyene, is placed between the anode and cathode electrodes and the three layers are
stacked or wound. Next, conductive tabs are attached to the current collectors by ultrasonic
spot welding or laser welding (Schönemann, 2017). After this, the tabbed assemblies are
packed in cell containers. Battery cells used in commercial BEVs are available in three different
cell containers: pouch, cylindrical, and prismatic (Anderman, 2016a; Birke, 2014; Omar et al.,
2012; Warner, 2014). Pouch cells are the preferred cell format for many major automobile
manufacturers as they can be assembled in different sizes and because the cell format itself
makes for a cell with high gravimetric energy density (kWh/kg) (Warner, 2014). The pouch
material is an aluminium-polymer composite that makes a soft cell container. Cylindrical and
prismatic cell containers are hard cases. Cylindrical cell containers are made of steel or
aluminium (Birke, 2014), while prismatic cell containers are made of polymers or aluminium
(Warner, 2014). In the next step, the dry cells are filled with a liquid electrolyte (Schönemann,
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
29
2017) that consists of lithium salts (LiPF6 is preferred) dissolved in organic carbonate solvents
(ethylene carbonate, dimethyl carbonate, and ethyl methyl carbonate are the most commonly
used) (Li et al., 2011). This process occurs under a vacuum to ensure complete wetting of the
electrodes and separator pores (Schönemann, 2017; Wood et al., 2015). After the wetting, the
cells are sealed.
The final step of cell manufacture is conditioning. The first stage of conditioning is formation
cycling to prepare the cell for commercial use. Before module assembly, the cell performance
is checked and tested (Schönemann, 2017).
Before pack assembly, cells are combined to form battery modules. Pouch cells require an
additional enclosure that provides structural stability and support. The enclosures may be made
of plastic and composite materials (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016) or metals
(Anderman, 2016b), and form a cassette around the cells. These cassettes are part of the
module packaging. Cylindrical and prismatic cells require fixtures or frames to make modules
(Schönemann, 2017). Commercial traction batteries therefore differ in cell and module
packaging.
2.2. Battery pack components and assembly
In pack assembly, the modules are combined with the BMS, electrical system, and the thermal
management system within a battery tray, which is made of steel or aluminium. The battery
packs are either assembled by a battery manufacturer and then delivered to the automobile
manufacturer (Anderman, 2016c; Kim et al., 2016) or are assembled by the automobile
manufacturers themselves (Anderman, 2016c; General Motors, n.d.). In the pack
manufacturing process, cell tabs are connected to busbars by welding, modules are tested, and
an initial charge creates a uniform state-of-charge across all cells (Schönemann, 2017).
All LIBs require a BMS as the cells fail if they are overcharged, completely discharged, or
operate outside of their safe temperature window (Hauser and Kuhn, 2015a; Omar et al., 2012;
Vezzini, 2014a). The BMS and electrical system includes battery module boards, a high-voltage
system including a battery interface system, and a low-voltage system, as well as cables, fuses,
connectors, and gaskets (Ellingsen et al., 2014). The combined weight of the BMS and electrical
system makes up about 3 to 4 % of the total battery weight in studies based on primary
industry data (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016).
Most traction batteries also require a thermal management system to equalise temperature
gradients between the cells, to cool the batteries, and to prevent thermal runaways and the
destruction of the battery by overheating (Hauser and Kuhn, 2015b; Warner, 2014). There are
two main types of thermal management system: liquid-based (glycol cooling fluid) and air-
based (fans and heat sinks) (Hauser and Kuhn, 2015a; Warner, 2014). The thermal
management system is typically made of aluminium, which has the advantage of being a good
thermal conductor and lightweight metal, but steel may also be used. Similarly to the BMS and
electrical system, the thermal management system makes up about 3 to 4 % of the total
battery weight in studies based on primary data (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016).
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2.3. Energy demands in battery production
Energy demand in battery production has been much discussed in the lifecycle assessment
(LCA) literature (Dunn et al., 2015, 2012; Ellingsen et al., 2015, 2014; Kim et al., 2016;
Majeau-Bettez et al., 2011). Assumptions about energy use in the battery production process
greatly influence the estimates of the overall GHG emissions of this process. While most studies
agree that the energy demand related to pack assembly is relatively low (Dunn et al., 2012;
Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016; Li et al., 2014; Notter et al., 2010; Yuan et al., 2017),
the studies have two opposing views on cell manufacture.
Studies that rely on secondary energy data12 from industry reports find high energy use for cell
manufacture (3261060 MJ/kWh cell) (Bauer, 2010; Majeau-Bettez et al., 2011; Zackrisson et
al., 2010). Studies that make their own estimates, however, assume either no (United States
Environmental Protection Agency, 2013) or very low energy use (2.310 MJ/kWh cell) (Dunn
et al., 2012; Notter et al., 2010; United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2013). Recent
LCA studies based on primary energy data13 report high energy use in the range of 5301670
MJ/kWh cell (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016; Yuan et al., 2017), which is largely in
agreement with the secondary data from industry reports. The higher end of the range is
representative of an industrial pilot scale manufacturing facility (Yuan et al., 2017), while the
lower end is representative of a state-of-the-art, world-leading supplier of LIB cells (Kim et al.,
2016). The energy demand for cell manufacture can be met by electricity alone (Ellingsen et
al., 2014), or by a combination of electricity and heat (Kim et al., 2016). Thus far, no primary
data sources have identified the shares of electricity and heat used in the cell manufacturing
process. However, studies based on industry reports have assumed 52 % and 57 % electricity
(Bauer, 2010; Majeau-Bettez et al., 2011; Zackrisson et al., 2010).
While more primary energy data is becoming available, detailed information regarding the
energy consumption of the process is still limited. A breakdown of energy use from energy
consumption of the process in cell manufacturing provided by an industrial pilot scale
manufacturing facility has identified electrode drying as the most time- and energy-consuming
process (Yuan et al., 2017). Because the NMP solvent has a higher boiling point (204.3°C) than
the water-based solvent (100°C), the cathode requires more energy during the process to
evaporate the solvent than the anode (Wood et al., 2015). The operation of dry rooms has also
been pointed out as being particularly energy-intensive (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Yuan et al.,
2017). As electrode drying and the operation of dry rooms have been identified as particularly
energy-intensive processes, it is likely that of all the battery production processes, these two
contribute the most to overall battery production GHG emissions.
Several factors may influence a plants energy requirements in manufacturing cells (Ellingsen,
2017). One of these is production location, which has implications for energy demand and
energy sources. Currently, lithium-ion cells are primarily produced in South Korea, China, and
Japan (Bernhart, 2014; pv magazine, 2015; Vezzini, 2014b). Since part of the cell
manufacturing energy inputs can only be met by electricity, the environmental impact of cell
manufacture is partly dictated by the energy sources used to generate the electricity. These
are countries that all use high shares of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Of the three
countries, China has the most carbon-intensive electricity mix. Thus, in spite of equal energy
use in cell manufacture, cells produced in China will have higher GHG emissions than cells
produced in South Korea or Japan. Moreover, certain regions in these countries are affected to
a great extent by the East Asian Monsoon, which is characterised by a warm, rainy monsoon
12 ‘Secondary energy data’ refers to quantitative energy data that was originally collected by a third party for different
purposes.
13 ‘Primary energy data’ refers to quantitative energy data collected by the cell manufacturer specifically for this study.
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
31
season lasting from early May to September (Yihui and Chan, 2005). The humid monsoon
summer might conceivably affect the energy use in dry room operations. As a result, there may
be differences in energy demand among the producing countries, depending on the season and
region.
Moving cell manufacture to areas that are richer in renewables or installing renewable energy
sources for use in manufacture has advantages in terms of energy use and GHG emissions.
Once completed and operational, it is claimed that Tesla Gigafactory 1, which is located in the
dry Nevada climate, will be self-sufficient, using energy from solar, wind, and geothermal
sources in its cell manufacturing. It is therefore likely that Tesla Gigafactory 1 will use less and
cleaner energy to produce cells than current cell operations.
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3. MINERAL USE, SUPPLY RISKS AND BATTERY
RECYCLING
KEY FINDINGS
LIBs are amalgams of materials and many of these materials are based on minerals in
finite supply.
Of the minerals used in lithium-ion traction batteries, it is likely that lithium and cobalt
have the highest overall supply risk, while aluminium has the lowest risk. Manganese,
iron, nickel, copper, and natural graphite have a medium supply risk.
Current recycling processes focus on the recovery of cobalt and nickel because
of the price of these metals. Copper and iron are typically also recovered. Only a few
recycling routes recover aluminium, lithium, and manganese. Graphite is not recycled
in current industrial recycling processes.
The growing use of BEVs powered by LIBs has resulted in an increasing demand for minerals.
This section examines mineral use associated with LIBs, the end-of-life (EOL) treatment of
batteries by recycling and supply risk evaluations for a number of minerals relevant to LIBs.
LIBs are amalgams of materials and many of the materials are based on minerals with a finite
supply. Minerals that are susceptible to supply risk for Li-ion traction batteries are: lithium (Li),
cobalt (Co), graphite (C), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), and aluminium
(Al). Figure 2 presents the material composition of a generic Li-ion traction battery.
Figure 210: Material composition of a generic Li-ion traction battery with an NCM
cathode.
Note: The module periphery includes module enclosure, while the battery system periphery includes the pack
enclosure, the battery management system, the electrical system, and the thermal management system.
Source: Reproduced from (Diekmann et al., 2017).
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In LIBs, lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel are primarily used in the cathode material,
while synthetic and natural graphite are used as the anode material. Copper and aluminium are
used as current collectors in the cells, but also have uses in other battery components. Steel is
not used in the cells themselves, but can be used in several battery components. The text below
examines the individual minerals in further detail.
In spite of their name, LIBs contain only small amounts of lithium. Lithium is primarily used in
the active cathode materials and, in smaller amounts, in the liquid electrolyte. In 2014, LIBs
accounted for 35 % of global lithium consumption (Sun et al., 2017), with about a quarter of
this share used in electric vehicles (BEVs and PHEVs) (Ziemann et al., 2012). Due to increasing
demand for lithium, particularly for batteries, major lithium producers are planning to increase
their extraction levels (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017a; Weil and Ziemann, 2014). The
geographic distribution of lithium deposits is very uneven. The United States Geological Survey
(USGS) estimates that the majority of the global lithium reserves, currently estimated at 14
million tonnes, are located in Chile (52 %), China (22 %), Argentina (14 %), and Australia
(11 %). These countries are also the largest producers of lithium globally (U.S. Geological
Survey, 2017a; Weil and Ziemann, 2014). Europe is a major consumer of lithium products, but
has less than 3 % of world lithium resources (Grosjean et al., 2012). Through its spodumene
mining operations, Australia is the largest single producer of lithium (41 %) (U.S. Geological
Survey, 2017a; Weil and Ziemann, 2014). Through their salt brine operations in the Andes,
Chile (34 %) and Argentina (16 %) are the second and third largest producers of lithium,
respectively (Weil and Ziemann, 2014). Global brine resources are mainly (70 %) located in
high altitude locations such as the Andes (Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile) and south-western
China (Tibet) (Kesler et al., 2012; Vikström et al., 2013). Although lithium reserves are unlikely
to be exhausted in the near future, shortages in supply may arise mainly because half of the
annual production volume originates from brines. Lithium production from brines is a relatively
slow process that cannot increase supply rapidly in response to sudden increases in demand.
Furthermore, lithium extracted from brines is a co-product in potassium production; a decrease
in demand for potassium might therefore affect the supply of lithium from brines. The market
for secondary lithium is practically non-existent at the present time; less than 1 % of lithium is
recycled globally (Graedel et al., 2011; Helbig et al., 2017). Lithium has high substitutability
as other materials can replace it in non-battery applications (Gruber et al., 2011) and other
battery chemistries can replace LIBs (Helbig et al., 2017). Nevertheless, the current BEV market
is heavily dependent on LIBs as they offer an as yet unmatched combination of high power and
energy densities (Reuter et al., 2013). A number of studies have explored the relationship
between lithium availability and LIB demand from the electrification of vehicles, ranging from
pessimistic studies suggesting that the demand cannot be met, to optimistic studies finding no
significant constraints to ambitious fleet development projections (Speirs et al., 2014).
Differences in study outcomes originate from differing assumptions about both future lithium
demand (e.g. size of vehicle fleet, degree of electrification, battery size, quantity of lithium per
unit of battery capacity, time horizon and other lithium applications) and supply (e.g. estimates
of lithium reserves, future lithium production rates, and future lithium recycling rates) (Speirs
et al., 2014).
Cobalt is used in the cathode active material. While LIB cathode materials without cobalt do
exist, they have lower energy density and are not currently used in BEVs. Research efforts are
being made in an attempt to reduce the share of cobalt in cathode material, mainly because of
its high price and the political challenges associated with supply. Cobalt is mainly produced as
a co-product of nickel or copper. The vast majority of identified terrestrial cobalt reserves are
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (49 %), with smaller shares in Australia (14 %),
Philippines (4.1 %), Canada (3.8 %), Zambia (3.8 %), and Russia (3.6 %) (U.S. Geological
Survey, 2017b). In 2016, the Democratic Republic of the Congo supplied more than half (54 %)
of world cobalt mine production (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017b). As a result, the political risks
that might potentially affect the supply of cobalt are particularly high (Helbig et al., 2017). As
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
35
cobalt is a relatively expensive metal, it has high recycling rates (over 50 % globally in 2008)
(Graedel et al., 2011), and it is always recovered in battery recycling processes (Hanisch et al.,
2015a). Cobalt recovered from battery recycling is of high enough quality for reuse in batteries.
The carbonaceous active anode material used in LIBs can generally be divided into synthetic
and natural graphite (Gulbinska, 2014; Yoshino, 2014). While large reserves of natural graphite
are found in Turkey (36 %), Brazil (29 %), and China (22 %), the largest-scale mine production
takes place in China (65 %) and India (14 %) (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017c). Synthetic
graphite is produced from petroleum coke and coal tar pitch (Olivetti et al., 2017). Graphite
has an overall 0 % recycling rate (Helbig et al., 2017), and is similarly not recycled from LIBs
(Accurec, 2017; Umicore, 2016). Silicon-based anode materials in nanoform are likely to be
used in LIBs in the near future and may partly or fully substitute graphite.
In LIBs, manganese is only used in NCM and LMO cathode materials. As a general rule,
manganese is predominantly used in the production of steel, while manganese consumption for
use in batteries is marginal (Ziemann et al., 2013). Major manganese reserves are located in
South Africa, Australia, Brazil, and Ukraine. South Africa is the largest single producer with
about 30 % of the total market share (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017d). Although manganese
generally has high recycling rates in excess of 50 % (Graedel et al., 2011; Helbig et al., 2017),
manganese is typically not recovered in LIB recycling schemes at present (Georgi-Maschler et
al., 2012; Gratz et al., 2014; Hanisch et al., 2015b).
Like cobalt, nickel is used in NCM and NCA cathode active materials. Compared to cobalt, nickel
is an inexpensive metal and increases the gravimetric energy density of LIBs. For these reasons,
the share of nickel is expected to increase to replace cobalt in battery cells. Nickel is fairly
widely distributed geographically with most continents having reserves. The largest reserves
are found in Australia (24 %) and Canada (13 %), while European reserves are mainly found
in Russia (10 %) (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017e). In general, nickel has a recycling rate of
58 % (Helbig et al., 2017) and is usually recovered in battery recycling as it is considered to
be one of the profitable metals to be recovered in the LIB recycling process (Hanisch et al.,
2015a).
Iron in the form of steel can be used in a variety of battery components, but, due to its weight,
aluminium is often preferred for various uses in BEVs. In LIBs, steel is used in fixings (e.g.
screws and bolts) in particular, but can also be used in the battery enclosure (e.g. cell housing,
battery tray) and in the thermal management system. China produces more than half of the
worlds pig iron and raw steel, while Russia is the largest producer in Europe (about 4.5 % of
global totals) (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017f). Global recycling rates for iron are close to 70 %.
As steel products are typically found in battery peripherals rather than the cells proper, steel is
often recovered through battery disassembly as opposed to the processing of cells (Georgi-
Maschler et al., 2012; Gratz et al., 2014; Hanisch et al., 2015b).
In LIBs, copper is used primarily in the negative current collector (anode), but also in electronics
and cables. As a result of its properties, such as its thermal and electrical conductivity and its
resistance to corrosion, copper has become a major industrial metal, ranking third after iron
and aluminium in terms of the quantities consumed (Glöser et al., 2013). Copper reserves are
widely distributed geographically, with the largest reserves located in Chile (29 %), Australia
(12 %), and Peru (11 %). The largest European reserves are to be found in Russia (4.2 %)
(U.S. Geological Survey, 2017g). The largest-scale mine production takes place in Chile (28 %),
Peru (11 %), China (9.0 %), and the US (7.2 %) (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017g). Copper has
a global recycling rate of 68 % (Helbig et al., 2017) and is recycled in most LIB recycling
schemes (Hanisch et al., 2015a).
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Aluminium has many applications in LIBs, the total share of aluminium in a battery depending
on material choices and design. Although much of the aluminium used in LIBs can be replaced
by other materials such as steel, the cathode current collector is always made of aluminium.
Globally, aluminium is the second most used metal after iron and steel. The main raw material
for aluminium production is bauxite, which is primarily mined in China and Australia (Liu and
Müller, 2013). China is the largest producer of aluminium with more than half of global
production (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017h). Aluminium has a relatively high recycling rate of
60 % (Helbig et al., 2017). While battery disassembly can lead to aluminium being recycled
from packaging or thermal management systems, the recycling processes for the cells rarely
do so (Georgi-Maschler et al., 2012; Gratz et al., 2014; Hanisch et al., 2015b).
3.1. Supply risks associated with Li-ion batteries
Shortages of the above minerals can arise for various reasons wars, embargoes, cartels and
other market manipulations, natural disasters, accidents, cyclical booms in global demand,
inadequate investment in new mines and processing facilities and resource depletion (Yaksic
and Tilton, 2009). Shortages due to resource depletion differ from the other causes, as they
are likely to arise slowly and persistently and to be permanent or at least of very long duration.
In the text below, we provide some relevant information on supply risk affecting the various
minerals used in traction LIBs.
Various assessments have evaluated the supply risk of minerals. Here, we report on the
contents of a recent study that uses a semi-quantitative assessment scheme to evaluate the
relative supply risks associated with minerals used specifically in LIBs (Helbig et al., 2017). The
main reasons for relying on this evaluation is that it is recent and focuses specifically on LIB
minerals. The scheme evaluates overall relative supply risk based on four criteria: (i) risk of
supply reduction, (ii) risk of demand increase, (iii) concentration risk and (iv) political risk. Each
risk criterion consists of two or three indicators (see Figure 3), the sources of which include
scientific literature, reports and various databases (Helbig et al., 2017). The weighting factors
indicate the relative importance of each indicator to the overall supply risk score. They are
determined by external experts within the framework of an Analytical Hierarchy Process (Helbig
et al., 2017).
Figure 3 presents the relative evaluation for the various indicators as well as the overall relative
supply risk evaluations (bottom row). Red denotes high risk, yellow intermediate risk, and
green low risk.
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
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Figure 3: Relative supply risk indicators and overall supply risk for each element.
Criterion
Indicator
Weighting
Li
Co
C
Mn
Ni
Fe
Cu
Al
Risk of supply
restriction
Static reach reserves 8.9 %
Static reach resources 5.2 %
End-of-life recycling rate 9.2 %
Risk of
demand
increase
By-product dependence 3.9 %
Future technology demand 14.1 %
Substitutability 14.2 %
Concentration
risk
Country concentration 9.7 %
Company concentration 13.0 %
Political risk
Political stability
(Worldwide governance indicator)
11.2 %
Policy perception index 5.2 %
Regulation risk
(Human development index)
5.3 %
Relative overall supply risk
Note: Comparisons are made across rows, i.e. for each indicator.
Data source: (Helbig et al., 2017).
The study reports that lithium and cobalt have the highest overall supply risk, while aluminium
has the lowest risk. Manganese, iron, nickel, copper, and natural graphite have a medium
supply risk. Note that the evaluation only pertains to natural graphite, not synthetic graphite,
as the carbonaceous anode material. The study also compared its results with those of previous
supply risk studies and found that they were similar (Helbig et al., 2017). The main difference
was that previous studies had reported a higher supply risk for natural graphite and a lower
risk for lithium. This difference may be accounted for by a variety of factors, such as the scope
of the study, indicator weighting, and evaluation year. As silicon is a widely abundant material,
replacing graphite with nanostructured silicon anodes may reduce the supply risk associated
with batteries. However, the production of nanostructured silicon involves high energy
requirements (Ellingsen et al., 2016a), which may have implications for GHG and other
emissions.
3.2. End-of-life treatment of lithium-ion batteries
Recycling of materials can be advantageous from both a resource conservation and an
environmental perspective. Secondary (recycled) materials can replace primary (virgin)
materials and thus preserve natural resources. Furthermore, recycled materials generally have
a lower environmental impact than virgin materials (Bigum et al., 2012). In principle, metals
are infinitely recyclable, but in practice recycling is often inefficient or essentially non-existent
because of the limits imposed by social behaviour, product design, recycling technologies, and
the thermodynamics of separation (Reck and Graedel, 2012).
In the EU, environmental regulations such End-of-Vehicle directives require automobile
manufacturers to take extended responsibility for their vehicles and components after use
(Ramoni and Zhang, 2013; Sakai et al., 2014). Under this extended responsibility, automobile
manufacturers are financially or physically responsible for either taking back their products with
the end goal of reusing, recycling or remanufacturing, or alternatively are obliged to delegate
this responsibility to a third party (Ramoni and Zhang, 2013). The recycling flow of vehicles is
almost identical in many countries (Sakai et al., 2014). The end-of-vehicle life treatment
process starts with dismantling. At this juncture, components containing hazardous substances,
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such as batteries and refrigerant gases are collected, followed by recyclables and valuable
materials for secondary use, including engines, tyres, and bumpers. In the EU, 55-70 % of the
original vehicle weight remains after the dismantling process for conventional ICEVs. The
vehicle shells left after the dismantling process are put into shredders. The shredded materials
are separated using an air classifier and the light shredding residues are taken out.
Subsequently, magnetic separators or non-ferrous metal collectors separate iron from
non-ferrous materials. The remnants of these processes are heavy shredding residues. The
combined amounts of the light and heavy shredding residues are reported to be 12-32 % of
the original vehicle weight in the EU, where these shredding residues are landfilled (Sakai et
al., 2014).
Battery recycling is driven by legislation and metal value. Directive 2006/66/EC14 stipulates
recycling rates to minimise the negative impact of batteries and waste batteries on the
environment, thus aiming to protect, preserve and improve the quality of the environment.
Specifically, 45 % of spent LIBs must be collected, and, as stated by the Directive, at least
50 % of the average weight of LIBs should be recycled, excluding energy recovery. Because
the Directive stipulates that the recycling processes of batteries must achieve a minimum
recycling efficiency by average weight, it favours the recovery of base metals that are widely
used in commercial and industrial applications and are relatively abundant in nature (e.g. iron,
copper). As a result, the Directive does not promote the recycling of scarce or specialty metals,
or metals that place a particularly high burden on the environment. Battery recyclers decide
themselves what materials to recover and recycle. The main economic driver of the LIB
recycling is the metal value of batteries. Because the metal value is driven by the price of cobalt
and nickel, current recycling processes focus on the recovery of these metals (Gratz et al.,
2014; Hanisch et al., 2015b; Reuter et al., 2013). Other transition metals, such as copper and
iron, are typically also recovered in the course of the current industrial LIB recycling processes.
Only a few recycling routes recover aluminium, lithium, and manganese (Georgi-Maschler et
al., 2012; Gratz et al., 2014; Hanisch et al., 2015b). Graphite is normally not recycled in the
framework of the current industrial recycling processes (Accurec, 2017; Hanisch et al., 2015a;
Umicore, 2016).
While there are several industrial LIB recyclers, these companies severely restrict the
information available about their recycling processes. The various recycling pathways recover
different materials, require different material and energy inputs and achieve different yields. In
Europe, there are four large-scale industrial LIB recycling companies: Accurec (Germany),
Umicore (Belgium), Recupyl (France), and BatRec (Switzerland). Current industrial battery
recycling processes typically involve a combination of different unit operations: mechanical
separation, pyrometallurgical treatment and hydrometallurgical treatment (Diekmann et al.,
2017). The text below summarises the limited information that is available for these recycling
processes.
Accurec combines mechanical pre-treatment with hydro- and pyrometallurgical process steps.
In battery disassembly, cells are separated from other battery components, such as the BMS,
the thermal management system and the pack and module enclosures. In a vacuum thermal
pre-treatment process, the electrolyte and hydrocarbons evaporate and the cells are
deactivated. The deactivated cells then go through various mechanical treatment processes,
resulting in four fractions. The material generated contains an iron-nickel fraction, an aluminium
fraction, an electrode foil fraction and a fine material fraction, which contains the electrode
material (Georgi-Maschler et al., 2012). The fine fraction is put into a reducing smelting furnace
that produces a cobalt alloy, lithium-containing slag and flue dust and an off-gas from the
14 Directive 2006/66/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 September 2006 on batteries and
accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators and repealing Directive 91/157/EEC, OJ L 266, 26.9.2006, p.
1.
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combustion of electrolytes (Accurec, 2017; Hanisch et al., 2015a). Cobalt, manganese, nickel,
and iron are recovered from the alloy at present (Vezzini, 2014b). The slag and flue dust can
be treated in additional hydrometallurgical steps to recover lithium, but this is not currently
done due to the lack of economic profit. Today, the slag is typically reused in construction,
while the small amount of flue dust (about 0.2 tonnes of flue dust per 1 000 tonnes of waste
input) is landfilled (Accurec, 2017). After the smelting furnace, the off-gas is cleaned in a
treatment process, which generates some waste water (Accurec, 2017).
Umicore applies pyrometallurgical treatment with a subsequent hydrometallurgical process. Its
pyrometallurgical treatment produces slag, a liquid metal alloy, flue dust, and gas emissions.
The slag fraction, which contains aluminium, lithium, and manganese, can be used in the
construction industry or further processed for additional metal recovery. Lithium recovery from
the slag, in cooperation with an external partner, started in 2017 (Umicore, 2017). The liquid
metal alloy is further refined in hydrometallurgical processes to recover copper, nickel, and
cobalt by solvent extraction. Umicore claims close-to-zero waste generation as only the flue
dust is landfilled, and all gases produced in their process are cleaned, significantly reducing
harmful emissions into the air (Umicore, n.d.).
Recupyl employs mechanical crushing followed by hydrometallurgical treatment. The LIBs are
crushed in an enclosure with a defined and controlled atmosphere and pressure (Hanisch et al.,
2015a). The crushed materials are then put on a vibrating screen and divided into four fractions
depending on size, density, and behaviour in a magnetic field. Only one fraction, a fine fraction
that is rich in in metal oxides and carbon, is further processed. This fraction is sieved to reduce
the copper content. The remaining fine powder is further treated in hydrometallurgical process
steps to derive solutions of cobalt and lithium salts. The cobalt solution is electrolysed to obtain
cobalt, while the lithium salts are oxidised to obtain lithium carbonate or lithium phosphate
(Vezzini, 2014b).
BatRec runs a mainly mechanical processing plant. The first step is crushing of the batteries in
an inert CO2 atmosphere. The next processing step is mechanical separation that leads to a
metal fraction containing non-ferrous metals, a metal fraction containing nickel, one fine
fraction containing cobalt and lithium and a plastic fraction. The first two metal fractions can
be sold on to other metal recyclers, while the fine fraction is sold on to cobalt and nickel refining
companies. The plastic fraction can be partially used for energy recovery in a pyrolysis
processes (Hanisch et al., 2015a).
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4. LIFECYCLE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS OF
BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES
KEY FINDINGS
BEVs have higher production emissions than ICEVs. The difference in production
emissions between the two powertrain technologies can be attributed to the traction
battery. Decarbonising the energy sources used in battery production is important in
relation to total lifecycle BEV GHG emissions.
The BEV use phase GHG emissions are a product of the operational energy use and the
carbon intensity of the electricity sources used to charge the battery. The electricity
sources used in battery production and charging are a major determinant of
whether or not BEVs provide a climate benefit compared with ICEVs.
BEVs powered by average European electricity are found to moderately reduce GHG
emissions compared to both the diesel and petrol ICEVs assuming a 150 000 km
vehicle lifetime.
The expected decarbonisation of the European power sector, coupled with improvements
in electrochemical and powertrain performances, should lead to an increase in the
environmental benefits of BEV use over time, particularly from a climate change
perspective.
Larger battery packs can increase driving range and consumer acceptance, but their
production also requires more resources and results in higher emissions. Given the
current state of the technology, striking the right balance between battery and
vehicle size and charging infrastructure is an important element in maximising
the climate change mitigation potential of BEVs.
As a measure to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels and thereby mitigate climate change,
many governments have introduced policies to promote market uptake of BEVs. BEVs have no
tailpipe emissions, but the indirect GHG emissions resulting from electricity generation can be
significant depending on energy sources (Bauer et al., 2015; Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Faria et
al., 2012; Hawkins et al., 2012; Notter et al., 2015). BEVs therefore have the potential to
reduce GHG emissions, but a lifecycle perspective is required to accurately assess the
sustainability and impacts of BEVs.
Lifecycle assessment (LCA) is a formalised analytical method for quantifying the environmental
impacts associated with the production and consumption of products and services. LCA
considers the material and energy requirements as delivering a function and strives to take
stock of all environmental exchanges that arise as a result of these requirements. These
environmental exchanges might consist of emissions into water bodies, air or land, or the
removal of resources from the environment, such as crude oil, biomass or metal ores. The LCA
method considers all stages, from raw material extraction, through processing and
manufacturing, to product use, recycling, and final disposal. LCA thus provides a useful whole
system perspective over entire supply chains where the total emissions and resource use
associated with the delivery of a functional unit (e.g. transporting one person over one
kilometre). Examples of such emissions include GHGs such as carbon dioxide and methane.
These emissions are inventoried and linked to potential environmental impacts, such as climate
change, or human toxicity. Similarly, resource use is inventoried, and can be used to assess
resource depletion effects. This report focuses on the climate change impacts associated with
BEVs, while other environmental impact categories will only be touched upon briefly.
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Figure 4: The complete lifecycle of a vehicle.
Note: Background colours for each box correspond to those of the bars in Figure 5.
Source: Redrawn from (Nordelöf et al., 2014).
As implied by the termlifecycle assessment, it is important to consider the complete vehicle
lifecycle, including the vehicle cycle and the well-to-wheel (WTW) cycle (see Figure 4). The first
stage of the vehicle cycle is production, which includes resource extraction and the
manufacturing and final assembly of components. The second stage is vehicle operation, which
also includes the conversion of fuel or electricity to movement, and maintenance. The third and
final stage is end-of-life (EOL) treatment, and involves dismantling and the recovery of certain
parts, as well as shredding, recycling, and the disposal of residues. The well-to-wheels cycle
includes the entire value chain of the fuel or energy source, including extraction of resources,
energy carrier production and distribution and the conversion of the energy source to kinetic
energy to move the vehicle. This cycle can be the value chain for petrol, diesel, biofuels,
electricity or hydrogen, depending on the vehicle powertrain technology being considered.
4.1. Lifecycle climate change impact
Figure 5 presents the lifecycle GHG emissions of a mid-sized BEV powered by a 24 kWh NCM
battery15 and mid-sized ICEVs over a total mileage (lifetime) of 150 000 km. GHG emissions
are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq). Darker blue denotes the
production of vehicles without batteries; lighter blue, the production of batteries; grey, the
operation phase (driving, including the WTW cycle and maintenance) and yellow, EOL
treatment. The contribution from each lifecycle phase is discussed in further detail in the
following sections. It is important to note that differences in vehicle lifetime between the two
powertrain technologies may affect the overall environmental ranking of the vehicles. That is,
to ensure and maximise the environmental benefits of the electric powertrain, it is imperative
that the batteries should last as long as the vehicles they power. The production of replacement
cells may compromise the ability of BEVs to compensate for the higher production impact.
15 The capacity of batteries in present-day BEVs ranges between 14.4 and 100 kWh. The smallest battery packs (14.4
16 kWh) are used in mini vehicles, such as the Peugeot iOn and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Most mid-sized vehicles,
such as the electric Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf, and Volkswagen e-Golf, have battery packs with a capacity of around
24 kWh. The largest battery packs (90 to 100 kWh) are primarily used in larger vehicles such as the Tesla Model S
and Model X.
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
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Figure 5: Lifecycle GHG emissions of mid-sized 24 kWh battery electric (left) and
internal combustion engine (right) vehicles.
Note: The average production emissions were selected for the battery and rest of the BEV. Vehicle operational energy
use is assumed to be 16.0 kWh/100 km for the BEVs (assuming the efficiency of the battery to be at 95 %, the
electric motor at 95 % and the inverter at 97 %), furthermore assuming 3.8 l/100 km for the diesel vehicle,
and 4.8 l/100 km for the petrol-driven vehicle over a lifetime of 150 000 km. The carbon intensity for electricity,
including transmission losses, is assumed to be 353 g CO2/kWh for the average European electricity mix, 671 g
CO2/kWh for world average natural gas-based electricity, 1160 g CO2/kWh for world average coal-based
electricity and 23 g CO2/kWh from wind.
Data sources: Production, LIBs (Bauer, 2010; Dunn et al., 2015; Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016; Majeau-
Bettez et al., 2011; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2010; United States Environmental Protection Agency,
2013; Volkswagen AG, 2012a; Zackrisson et al., 2010). Production, rest of electric vehicle (Dunn et al., 2015;
Hawkins et al., 2013; Kim et al., 2016; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2010; Volkswagen AG, 2012a).
Production, conventional vehicles (Daimler AG, 2014, 2012; Dunn et al., 2015; Hawkins et al., 2013; Kim et
al., 2016; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2010; Volkswagen AG, 2012b). Operation, energy use (‘Ford Focus’,
2017, Ford Focus Electric, 2016; Volkswagen AG, 2014a). Electric powertrain efficiency (Nordelöf et al., 2017;
Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Mahmoudzadeh Andwari et al., 2017). Carbon intensity, electricity production (Bruckner
et al., 2014; IEA, 2016). Carbon intensity, electricity transmission (Ecoinvent Centre, 2010). Carbon intensity,
fuel production and combustion (WTW) (Edwards et al., 2013). Maintenance and EOL (Hawkins et al., 2012).
There are significant variations in GHG emissions among and between the different powertrain
technologies. The lifecycle emissions of the BEVs depend on the electricity sources used to
charge the battery (Bauer et al., 2015; Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Faria et al., 2012; Hawkins et
al., 2012; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2015). When powered by the average European
mix, BEVs are found to moderately reduce GHG emissions compared to both diesel and petrol-
driven ICEVs assuming a 150 000 km vehicle lifetime (Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Hawkins et al.,
2012; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2015). When powered by coal-based electricity, BEVs
are found to cause an increase in GHG emissions compared with the ICEVs (Ellingsen et al.,
2016b; Hawkins et al., 2012; Notter et al., 2015). By contrast, BEVs powered by a renewable
energy source, such as wind, have significantly reduced lifecycle GHG emissions compared to
the ICEVs (Bauer et al., 2015; Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Faria et al., 2012; Hawkins et al., 2012;
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Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2015). Therefore, even though the BEV production phase is
more carbon-intensive than that of ICEVs, the BEVs can, under the right conditions,
compensate for the higher production emissions by lower use phase emissions. Diesel ICEVs
tend to have somewhat lower lifecycle GHG emissions than petrol-driven ICEVs (Hawkins et al.,
2012). The text below provides further information and insights on the GHG emissions
associated with vehicle and battery production, vehicle operation and EOL treatment.
4.1.1. Contributions from vehicle and battery production
The underlying sources of BEVslifecycle emissions differ from ICEVs. The production intensity
for a mid-sized BEV is around 6.07.4 tonnes CO2-eq/tonne of car (Daimler AG, 2014; Hawkins
et al., 2013; Kim et al., 2016; Miotti et al., 2015; Volkswagen AG, 2012a), while for ICEVs, the
intensity is around 4.25.5 tonne CO2-eq/tonne of car (Daimler AG, 2014, 2012; Dunn et al.,
2015; Hawkins et al., 2013; Kim et al., 2016; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2010;
Volkswagen AG, 2012b). The difference between BEVs and ICEVs in production emissions is
mainly due to the traction battery, which accounts for around 33–44 % of total BEV production
emissions (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Hawkins et al., 2012; Kim et al., 2016; Miotti et al., 2015;
Volkswagen AG, 2012a). Commercial battery packs can vary in design, materials, production
techniques, and pack size, so some variations in production impact are to be expected.
LCA studies report a large range in overall battery production emissions, with results between
38356 kg CO2-eq/kWh, corresponding to 0.98.6 tonnes of CO2-eq per 24-kWh battery pack
(see Figure ). As battery producers have generally not been very forthcoming with information
or production data, the majority of existing studies base their inventories on assumptions or
secondary data available in the literature. Although there are many discrepancies in the
reported results, two recent studies based on primary industry data find similar emissions of
approximately 140170 kg CO2-eq/kWh (3.44.1 tonnes of CO2-eq per 24 kWh battery pack)
(Ellingsen et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016). Confidence in these two results is relatively high for
three reasons: the data is primary, originates from two independent battery producers, and the
two studies report both similar total production emissions and contributing factors. The same
two industry-based studies find that for a 24 kWh battery pack, about half of the production-
related GHG emissions derive from the energy use required in cell manufacture (Ellingsen et
al., 2014; Kim et al., 2016). The remaining emissions are distributed between the cell materials
(about 20 %), enclosure (12–18 %), and other battery components (7–14 %) (Ellingsen et al.,
2014; Kim et al., 2016). According to these results, the most promising approach for reducing
production-related GHG emissions of traction batteries is to reduce the emissions associated
with cell manufacture. This can be achieved through lower energy use or use of cleaner energy
sources (Ellingsen et al., 2017). Thus, Tesla Gigafactory 1, which claims to be self-sufficient in
energy from renewable sources, may reduce battery cell production impacts by up to 50 %
compared to cells produced in South Korea, China, and Japan. To a lesser extent, using recycled
metals in the battery, particularly copper, aluminium, nickel, and cobalt, might also reduce
production-related GHG emissions by avoiding the use of virgin materials (Ellingsen et al.,
2017).
4.1.2. Contributions from vehicle operation
For both ICEVs and BEVs, the use phase is responsible for much of the GHG emissions. The
WTW cycle is responsible for the majority of operational emissions, whether directly through
fuel combustion or indirectly through electricity production, while maintenance contributes very
little to the operational emissions (Hawkins et al., 2012).Consequently, the BEV use phase
contributions mainly depend on the carbon intensity of the electricity and can range from about
5–75 % of total lifecycle emissions (Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Hawkins et al., 2012; Miotti et al.,
2015; Notter et al., 2015). For diesel and petrol vehicles, the use phase contributes about 80 %
of total emissions (Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Hawkins et al., 2012; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
45
al., 2015). For both electric and conventional vehicles, energy consumption and the sources of
energy are important factors in the use phase. Several studies have found that the carbon
intensity of the electricity in the operation phase determines the advantage or disadvantage
of adopting BEVs over ICEVs with regard to GHG emissions. While relatively similar lifecycle
emissions are achieved by charging BEVs with electricity from natural gas (Bauer et al., 2015;
Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Hawkins et al., 2012), wind-based electricity results in significantly
lower lifecycle emissions compared to ICEVs (Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter
et al., 2015). By contrast, coal-based electricity yields higher lifecycle emissions for BEVs than
ICEVs (Bauer et al., 2015; Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Hawkins et al., 2012). Hence, in areas where
electricity is primarily produced from thermal power plants fired by lignite, coal or heavy oil,
BEVs serve as a means of improving urban air quality and shifting emissions away from the
densely populated urban centres, rather than reducing GHG emissions overall (Hawkins et al.,
2012).
The importance of the operation phase depends on the duration of operation; the longer the
vehicle operates, the greater the importance of the GHG emissions stemming from the use
phase, with production emissions contributing a smaller share of the overall emissions.
4.1.3. Contributions from end-of-life treatment
Irrespective of powertrain technology, LCA studies have found that the emissions stemming
from EOL treatment are small compared to the emissions stemming from production and
operation (Daimler AG, 2014; Hawkins et al., 2012; Miotti et al., 2015; Notter et al., 2010;
Volkswagen AG, 2014b). The same studies report that BEVs have somewhat higher EOL
emissions than the ICEVs due to the battery, but there is a great deal of uncertainty associated
with the reported results of battery recycling because of the low data availability for various
industrial recycling schemes. Because of the poor availability of data, only very few LCA studies
have evaluated the final lifecycle stage of batteries, and they have assessed different treatment
options. The studies report relatively low impacts from battery recycling (Ellingsen et al.,
2016b; Hawkins et al., 2012; Li et al., 2014; Notter et al., 2010). Battery recycling schemes
that are more reliant on energy use (pyrometallurgical treatment) are likely to have higher
GHG emissions, while recycling schemes that rely more on the use of solvents
(hydrometallurgical treatment) are likely to have higher loads in other environmental impact
categories (e.g. eutrophication). Contrary to the operation phase, EOL emissions associated
with battery recycling are unlikely to be highly influenced by changes in the electricity mix as
only a small share of the energy input in the EOL treatment processes is from electricity.
Improved inventory data is required to provide more certain answers regarding GHG emissions
due to battery recycling.
4.1.4. The role of battery electric vehicles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Although BEVs have potential GHG benefits, these benefits cannot be harnessed everywhere
and under all conditions. Because the carbon intensity of the electricity used for charging
significantly influences the lifecycle emissions of BEVs, the potential benefit or disadvantage of
BEVs compared to ICEVs will vary among different countries. In countries where there is a large
share of renewable or nuclear power, one can expect a substantial benefit from adopting BEVs.
However, in countries with a large share of fossil fuels in the electricity mix, using conventional
ICEVs is beneficial over BEVs; the larger production emissions for BEVs cannot be overcome in
the driving phase when the electricity is carbon intensive. For some countries, the difference in
lifecycle emissions between the two powertrain technologies is likely to be relatively small. In
many countries, the electricity is a dynamic mix of various energy sources. Electricity mixes
are susceptible to change over time as power plants are built and decommissioned.
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The expected decarbonisation of the European power sector, coupled with improvements in
electrochemical and powertrain performances, should lead to an increase in the environmental
benefits of BEV use over time, particularly from a climate change perspective. This anticipated
decarbonisation of the power sector combined with the expected increase in impacts associated
with the extraction of dwindling oil reserves would result in increased environmental benefits
of BEVs compared to ICEVs. Thus, the trend towards increased use of renewables in the power
sector is a positive development for BEVs as it reduces their lifecycle GHG emissions. These
effects are a result of not only the electricity used for charging becoming cleaner, but also the
electricity being used to produce the batteries, which corresponds to about half of the climate
change impacts from battery production shown in the light blue series in Figure .
Due to its relative novelty as a technology, the LIBs used in BEVs have considerable potential
for improvements in manufacturing efficiencies and technological improvements such as
increased gravimetric energy density and lifetime (Hao et al., 2017; Sauer et al., 2016). Such
improvements may further decrease the lifecycle impacts of BEVs. By contrast, the energy
efficiency of ICEVs is inherently limited by the thermodynamics of the internal combustion
engine and are approaching a plateau in technological improvements (Sims et al., 2014).
Decreases in the lifecycle emissions from this vehicle technology would therefore have to be
achieved through other means, such as lightweighting, reduced aerodynamic drag, and rolling
resistance. These improvements, however, are not unique to ICEVs and can also be applied to
BEVs to improve their lifecycle impacts even further.
Regardless of powertrain configuration, smaller vehicles are generally more energy efficient
than larger ones, and have lower GHG emissions (Ellingsen et al., 2016b; Miotti et al., 2016).
Although increasing the size and range of batteries make BEVs more marketable and acceptable
for consumers, the implications here are that the BEV production emissions increase, and
operation emissions also increase (to move the heavier vehicle). As a result, any advantages
over their ICEV counterparts (i.e. vehicles of similar size) decrease when larger batteries are
installed in BEVs of a given segment. Developing batteries with higher gravimetric energy
density is therefore a priority as it can allow for longer driving ranges without making the
battery packs heavier. So far, the gravimetric energy density has mainly been increased by
fabrication improvements, by using progressively lighter cases (e.g. using aluminium instead
of stainless steel), or by the optimisation of cell design so as to increase the loading of active
electrode materials (Scrosati and Garche, 2010). The gravimetric energy density of LIBs is
mainly determined by the properties of the active electrode materials (Liu et al., 2010),
particularly cathode material as its practically achievable energy is much inferior to that of the
anode material (Li et al., 2015; Rosenman et al., 2015). Developments expected in the near
future include the increased use of nickel in the cathode materials and the introduction of
silicon-based anode materials. However, these developments are expected only to result in
incremental improvements of the gravimetric energy density. New battery technologies such
as lithium-sulphur and lithium-air are being researched, but such technologies face substantial
challenges (e.g. lifetime) that must be resolved before potential commercialisation (Ellingsen
et al., 2016a). Therefore, we cannot expect any revolutionary improvements in gravimetric
energy density any time soon.
4.2. Other environmental impacts
Climate change is but one of many environmental impact types considered in LCA studies.
When assessing the lifecycle impact of product or a service, however, one should also consider
other relevant environmental impacts, as trade-offs often exist. Figure 6 presents the relative
lifecycle environmental performance of BEVs (charged with the average European mix, natural
gas, coal, and wind) and ICEVs (fuelled with diesel and petrol) for an operational use of 150 000
km. The environmental performance of the vehicles in each environmental impact category is
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
47
ranked by colour, where red denotes the poorest, yellow middling, and green the best relative
performance in each environmental impact category.
Figure 6 shows trade-offs between lifecycle benefits and disadvantages for BEVs compared to
ICEVs. As a general rule, this is because BEVs are not always able to compensate for the higher
environmental impacts from production with lower use phase impacts. This is particularly the
case for the environmental impact categories (eutrophication and toxicity) affected by metal
use.
Figure 6: Lifecycle environmental impacts of battery electric and internal
combustion engine vehicles.
GWP FDP FETP FEP HTP METP MEP MDP ODP PMFP POFP TAP TETP
BEV
European mix
Natural gas
Coal
Wind
ICEV Diesel
Gasoline
Note: Rankings are made down columns, i.e., for each impact category16.
Source: Data source: (Ellingsen et al., 2014; Hawkins et al., 2013)
16 Impact category abbreviations as follows: global warming potential (GWP), fossil depletion potential (FDP),
freshwater ecotoxicity potential (FETP), freshwater eutrophication potential (FEP), human toxicity potential (HTP),
marine ecotoxicity potential (METP), marine eutrophication potential (MEP), metal depletion potential (MDP), ozone
depletion potential (ODP), particulate matter formation potential (PMFP), photo oxidation formation potential
(POFP), terrestrial acidification potential (TAP) and terrestrial ecotoxicity potential (TETP).
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5. CONCLUSIONS
Battery production can be subdivided into cell manufacture and pack assembly, of which the
former is considerably more energy-intensive than the latter. This translates into a considerable
contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with BEV manufacturing.
LIBs are complex products containing many different materials, some of which may already be
subject to supply risk, or may become so in the future. Lithium and cobalt are likely to pose
the highest supply risk, while aluminium poses the lowest risk. Manganese, iron, nickel, copper,
and natural graphite have a medium supply risk. The improvement of recovery processes for
these elements at the vehicle’s end-of-life can, to some degree, alleviate these supply risks. As
we move from fuel-intensive ICEVs to materials-intensive BEVs, it becomes increasingly more
important to have efficient recycling processes in place to ensure the optimal recovery of finite
minerals as well as energy- and pollution-intensive materials.
The shift in powertrain technology leads to a change in lifecycle GHG emissions of passenger
vehicles. In order for BEVs to provide a climate change mitigation alternative to ICEVs, they
must have lower lifecycle GHG emissions. As a result of the battery, BEVs have higher
production intensities than ICEVs. Therefore, BEVs must have lower use phase emissions than
ICEVs to achieve lower lifecycle emissions. Lifecycle assessment studies find that whether the
BEVs manage to compensate for their higher production emissions or not largely depends on
the carbon intensity of the electricity sources used to charge the battery. Thus BEVs do not
have unconditional climate benefits over ICEVs; these benefits only exist under certain
circumstances. Lifecycle assessment studies consistently report moderate climate benefits for
BEVs powered by the current average European electricity mix compared to similarly sized
ICEVs.
Regardless of powertrain configuration, smaller vehicles tend to be more energy efficient during
operation and generally have lower GHG emissions than larger ones. The trend in increasing
the size and range of BEVs is unfavourable from both a climate mitigation and resource use
perspective. Thus, given the current state of the technology, striking the right balance between
battery and vehicle size and charging infrastructure is an important element in maximising the
climate change mitigation potential of BEVs. While improving the gravimetric energy density of
LIBs can allow for longer driving ranges without making the battery packs heavier, only
incremental improvements can be expected in the near future.
The climate benefit of BEVs compared to ICEVs is expected to increase in the near future due
to changes in the European power sector and developments within cell manufacturing. The
expected decarbonisation of the European power sector should lead to an increase in the
environmental benefits of BEV use over time, particularly from a climate change perspective.
Decarbonisation of the electricity mix in cell-manufacturing countries would additionally be
beneficial with respect to the battery production process. The most significant change in cell
manufacture in the near future is the expected large production volume of cells by Tesla
Gigafactory 1, which claims to be self-sufficient in renewable energy. Consequently, GHG
emissions from both production and use are expected to decrease in the coming years.
Achieving the goal of more sustainable transport solutions requires a good environmental
understanding of our technologies. To avoid potential environmental pitfalls in the adoption of
BEVs, the automotive industry and their suppliers, particularly battery producers and recyclers,
have to be more transparent about the environmental implications of their product lines. An
open communications channel between industry, government and researchers is essential if
BEVs are to succeed as a climate change mitigation initiative within the transport sector.
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
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50
Resources, energy, and lifecycle greenhouse gas emission aspects of electric vehicles
51
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