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Partnership to Conduct Life-Cycle Assessment for Lithium-ion Batteries and Nanotechnology in Electric Vehicles

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About the Partnership

This partnership was led by EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) Program, in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, and the National Risk Management Research Laboratory, in EPA's Office of Research and Development.

The partnership conducted a screening-level life-cycle assessment (LCA) of currently manufactured lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technologies for electric vehicles, and a next generation battery component (anode) that uses single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) technology.

A quantitative environmental LCA of Li-ion batteries was conducted using primary data from both battery manufacturers and recyclers--and the nanotechnology anode currently being researched for next-generation batteries.

Why did DfE conduct a life-cycle assessment?

This type of study had not been previously conducted, and was needed to help grow the advanced-vehicle battery industry in a more environmentally responsible and efficient way. The LCA results are expected to mitigate current and future impacts and risks by helping battery manufacturers and suppliers identify which materials and processes are likely to pose the greatest impacts or potential risks to public health or the environment throughout the life cycle of their products. The study identifies opportunities for environmental improvement, and can inform design changes that will result in the use of less toxic materials and reduced overall environmental impacts, and increased energy efficiency.

The opportunities for improving the environmental profile of Li-ion batteries for plug-in and electric vehicles identified in the draft LCA study have the potential to drive a significant reduction of potential environmental impacts and risks, given that advanced batteries are an emerging and growing technology.

The study also demonstrates how the life-cycle impacts of an emerging technology and novel application of nanomaterials (i.e., the SWCNT anode) can be assessed before the technology is mature, and provides a benchmark for future life-cycle assessments of this technology.

DfE's Partnership for the Application of Life-Cycle Assessment to Nanoscale Technology: Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles

DfE and the National Risk Management Research Laboratory in EPA's Office of Research and Development formed the Lithium-ion Batteries and Nanotechnology for Electric Vehicles Partnership to conduct a screening-level life-cycle assessment (LCA) of current and emerging energy systems used in plug-in hybrid electric and electric vehicles. The primary goal of the partnership was to help companies make environmentally sound process and material choices, as the technology evolves and the market share for electric vehicles expands.

The project focused on the following battery types and product systems:

  • Lithium-manganese oxide-type chemistry for electric vehicle and plug-in electric vehicles;
  • Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries for electric vehicle and plug-in electric vehicles;
  • Lithium-nickel-cobalt-manganese-oxide (Li-NCM) for electric vehicles; and
  • Single-walled carbon nanotube anode technology for use in next-generation Li-ion batteries

Using an LCA approach, the study generated data to help manufacturers, users, suppliers, and recyclers of Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles incorporate environmental considerations into their decision-making processes and improve the environmental profile of their products. An LCA examines all of the steps involved in manufacturing, using, and disposing (including reuse and recycling) of a product or material, and estimates environmental impacts from each of the following stages:

  • Raw materials extraction/acquisition;
  • Materials processing;
  • Product manufacture;
  • Product use; and
  • Final disposition/end-of-life
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Read the final report, Application of Life-Cycle Assessment to Nanoscale Technology: Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles.

Partnership participants

The project partners included lithium-ion battery manufacturers and suppliers, recyclers, trade organizations, research institutions, and academic and government (US EPA and Department of Energy) representatives. The life-cycle assessment study was conducted by Abt Associates Inc., under contract with US EPA.

  • Arizona State University
  • Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Electrovaya, Inc.
  • EnerDel, Inc.
  • Kinsbursky Brothers, Inc. (Toxco)
  • National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries (NAATBatt)
  • NextEnergy
  • Novolyte Technologies, Inc.
  • Rechargeable Battery Association
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • RSR Technologies, Inc.
  • Umicore Group
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and Office of Research and Development