EV Batteries Still Have a Carbon Footprint

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

The carbon footprint of mining and producing the raw materials used in batteries is comparable with that of tailpipe emissions.

The move to electrification creates several issues. The carbon footprint of mining and producing the raw materials used in batteries is comparable with that of tailpipe emissions. The e-mobility revolution has hidden expenses, including the recycling of battery components.

Many startups propose a fully functional circular economy as a way to attain net-zero carbon emissions. To make e-mobility sustainable, social and environmental standards must be respected when extracting essential raw materials. These materials must also be recycled. To meet climate objectives, we must combine traceability with circularity, according to Douglas Johnson-Poensgen, co-founder and CEO of Circulor.

At the recent Energy Tech Summit, Johnson-Poensgen presented what Circulor is doing for traceability in complex industrial supply chains. There are two reasons to consider this approach. One is to demonstrate responsible sourcing and the other is to adopt increasingly sustainable business practices.

The costs associated with an electrified transportation revolution involve serious supply chain considerations. According to Circulor, the success of electric vehicles in terms of full sustainability depends on three main factors: the carbon level of the manufacturing process, the carbon level of the electricity used to charge the battery during vehicle use, and what happens to the battery at the end of its “first” life.

According to S&P Worldwide Market Intelligence, global battery demand might increase more than fivefold between 2020 and 2025 as more EVs enter the market. EVs require more minerals than automobiles with internal combustion engines, which means that the consumption of lithium and other metals in EV batteries will increase. Circulor is convinced that shifting our supply chains from carbon-intensive to greener solutions is crucial to achieving our global climate targets.

The challenges are therefore resource efficiency, sustainable supply of raw materials and responsible recycling. An EV is, in fact, a complex product consisting of dozens of different components and materials, and its end of life requires experience and advanced knowledge of both technical and organizational nature. Proper battery management is obviously a central theme, both for the conservation of resources and a preventive aspect. An appropriate treatment avoids the emission of hazardous substances into the environment.

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Circulor Technology

Decarbonization

Thanks to the green shift to electric power, the battery is at the heart of the energy revolution. Batteries are not immune to environmental concerns, and the social and ecological implications of obtaining materials for battery cells or disposing of them at the end of their useful lives must be considered.

The main challenges are carbon footprint reporting (i.e., the amount of carbon dioxide emitted) and supply chain traceability with the establishment of a “battery passport.”

To reduce the carbon footprint of companies operating internationally, it is critical to collect relevant data collected throughout the supply chain. Circulor uses blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to track the actual material as it flows through the supply chain, not just the transactions between participants. According to Circulor, this means that it is possible to aggregate emissions at each stage of the supply chain, creating accurate and insightful information about embedded CO2.

“You cannot manage what you cannot measure,” said Johnson-Poensgen. “Carbon accounting platforms calculating inherited carbon based on emissions factors won’t provide the insight that manufacturers need to decarbonize. You have to do it based on the flow of the actual materials and real production data. Inherited scope 3 emissions are the challenge of our lifetime, to get anywhere near net zero. For an auto manufacturer, you inherit 80% of the carbon emissions of the vehicle you sell.”

Circulor is collaborating with Britishvolt, a U.K-based lithium-ion battery manufacturer, to trace their supply chains and emissions from factory building materials to battery disposal and/or reuse at the end of life. This is the first initiative of its type to track not only battery supply chains but the facility’s construction and maintenance, as well as the economic development impact on the surrounding area.

By enabling recovery and reuse, traceability will help extend the life of items and reduce waste. Traceability and circularity will help achieve climate goals.

It is difficult to ensure that ethical and environmental norms are successfully implemented in global supply chains without knowing the origin of commodities or materials. Circulor’s purpose is to trace raw material origins, material movements, and the complete production cycle. This real-time data allows for the tracking of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and ESG data to show responsible sourcing, sustainability, and circularity.

Tracking the environmental impact of EV batteries

Recent legislative proposals for a “battery passport” will drive attention to decarbonization, circularity, and the need for source data. The latest EU battery regulation includes a requirement for each battery to have a digital identity or “passport,” demonstrating that we care about our people, planet, and resources.

Batteries directly avoid 0.4 GtCO2 in transportation and help make renewables a reliable source of energy to replace carbon-based power generation, which will avoid 2.2 GtCO2, about 30% of the emissions reductions required in these sectors through 2030.

With the right conditions in place, batteries are a systematic factor in the transition of transportation and energy to greenhouse gas neutrality, coupling the two sectors for the first time in history and turning renewable energy from an alternative source into a reliable foundation.

If the expected growth in worldwide battery demand of more than 19× the present levels over the next decade is sustained, batteries can serve various functions. Even if batteries are required to combat climate change, this cannot be accomplished without a fundamental shift in the way resources are procured, as well as how this technology is created and used. The passport gives accurate statistics and information at each battery’s life-cycle stage. Throughout the life of an EV battery, the digital tool can track the management of social and environmental concerns.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.

 

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