Solid-State Batteries Can Lower Carbon Emissions By 25 To 39%

Transport & Environment is a European-based NGO whose mission is “a zero-emission mobility system that is affordable and has minimal impacts on our health, climate and environment.” Since it was founded 30 years ago, it has played an important role in uncovering the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal and promoting tougher emission standards for cars and trucks sold in the EU. Recently, it was called out several European manufacturer for foisting off plug-in hybrid models that had up to 12 times as many carbon emissions as advertised on the buying public and alerted EU regulators to the scam.

This month, it commissioned Minviro, a company specializing in raw material life cycle analysis, to compare the carbon emissions from emerging solid-state battery technology to current battery chemistries. Since solid-state batteries have a higher energy density, they need less materials to manufacture — about 24% less, on average. Not surprisingly, 24% fewer materials equates to about 24% fewer emissions. No surprise there.

Solid-State Battery Emissions

Solid-state technology uses solid ceramic material instead of liquid electrolytes to carry electric current, which makes the batteries lighter, faster to charge, and less expensive. Battery manufacturers forecast that solid-state batteries will be used in EVs in the second half of the decade.

Cecilia Mattea, clean vehicles officer at T&E, said: “Electric vehicles are already far better for the planet than burning oil and the carbon footprint of batteries is falling every year. But solid-state technology is a step change because their higher energy density means far less materials, and therefore far less emissions, are needed to make them.”

Further Reductions Are Possible

The research also finds new battery technologies that can reduce the climate impact of batteries even further — by 39% compared to current lithium batteries — if solid-state batteries are made using the most sustainably sourced materials. New mining methods, including extracting lithium from geothermal wells, have significantly lower climate impacts than more commonly used sources such as lithium from hard rock mined in Australia and refined in China.

Cecilia Mattea added, “Cleaning up the way we extract and process the raw materials in solid-state batteries will slash their climate impact even further. Improving the methods used in the supply chain will be key. The EU Battery Regulation is an opportunity to ensure that every battery made or sold in Europe is better sourced, has a lower carbon footprint and is recycled at the end of its life.”

Solid-state batteries may require up to 35% more lithium than the current lithium-ion, but far less graphite and cobalt are needed. Members of the European Commission and EU governments are currently negotiating the final text of the new Battery Regulation. T&E is calling on lawmakers to ensure the legislation incentivizes the production of batteries with a lower carbon footprint, and increases lithium recycling targets to 70% in 2025 and 90% in 2030. Both are higher than what the EU Commission has proposed.

The Takeaway

Transport and Environment is not universally loved. They are forever running around sticking their probes into tailpipes to make sure what is coming out of them is what the manufacturers say it is. But their research is meticulously documented, which means governments must give it due regard even when it is inconvenient or awkward to do so.

There are a lot of people running around shouting about how electric cars are not as “clean” as they claim to be. Groups like T&E provide the data and research to counter those spurious claims.


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