Cleaner grids and new tech offer battery sector emissions reduction potential

Study sees significant opportunities to limit the sector's carbon footprint despite huge forecast growth

Cleaner grids and new tech offer battery sector emissions reduction potential
Almost half of battery-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occur in China

Two-thirds of all battery-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occur in China (45 pc), Indonesia (13pc), and Australia (9pc), according to a new study by researchers at three universities. 

Total emissions from battery manufacturing were 23.75mn t CO₂ equivalent (CO₂e) in 2020. This could rise to 300-600mn t CO₂e under various different scenarios modelled by the study using the current mix of battery technologies, with the highest numbers reflecting scenarios with the biggest rollout of electric vehicles (EVs). 

But the emissions impact of battery manufacture can be greatly reduced by reducing the grid intensity of manufacturing regions — helping offset the impact of the rise of EVs. 

This is particularly true in China and Indonesia, which have amongst the highest grid intensities in the world. 

“Electricity consumption contributes approximately 37pc to the total current GHG emissions of lithium-ion battery manufacture, so decarbonisation of the electricity sector is an important lever in reducing the overall life cycle emissions,” the report says. 

Under a 'stated policies scenario', GHG emissions per battery unit reduce by 20-22pc by 2050, while under a more ambitious 'sustainable development scenario', GHG emissions would reduce by 37-39pc per unit by 2050. 

Increased battery recycling rates could also reduce demand for primary materials, which are more emissions-intensive than secondary ones, cutting overall emissions.

Similarly new technologies have the potential to greatly reduce the carbon footprint of battery manufacture. Under one scenario where lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries reach a 60pc market share in 2050, the emissions of the sector are kept at just over 40mn t CO₂e by that date.

LFP batteries have lower GHG emissions than any of the nickel-based chemistries, and with the expiry of the LFP patent in 2022, major automotive manufacturers are showing interest in them — particularly for entry-level high-volume BEVs.

Breakthroughs in battery technologies such as lithium-sulphur, lithium-silicon, lithium-air, solid-state, and sodium-ion batteries were not included in the analysis but also have the potential to pave the way to further emissions reductions, the study notes. 

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Sheffield, Toronto and Nottingham and was partly funded by Saudi Aramco Technologies Company.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to EV inFocus.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.

Insider Focus LTD (Company #14789403)