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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Solid state batteries could further boost climate benefits of EVs

27/7/2022

Solid state battery Photo: Shutterstock
Solid state batteries use solid ceramic material instead of liquid electrolytes to carry electric current, also making the batteries lighter, faster to charge and eventually cheaper

Photo: Shutterstock

Solid state batteries (SSBs) can reduce the carbon footprint of electric vehicle (EV) batteries by up to 39%, further increasing EVs’ advantage over fossil fuel vehicles, according to research commissioned by Transport & Environment (T&E) from Minviro, a company specialising in raw material life-cycle analysis, which compared emerging solid state technology to current battery chemistries.

Batteries are the fastest growing storage technology and will be crucial in helping the European Union (EU) meet its decarbonisation goals, especially in the road transport sector. Car manufacturers globally are already thinking about what kind of batteries will power the vehicles of the future and, whilst the jury is still out, many regard SSBs as the next generation of battery technology for EVs.

 

An SSB, which stores more energy with less materials, can reduce the already decreasing carbon footprint of an electric car battery by 24%, reports T&E. The analysis compares a NMC-811 SSB, which is one of the most promising chemistries being developed, to current lithium-ion technology. Solid state technology uses solid ceramic material instead of liquid electrolytes to carry electric current, also making the batteries lighter, faster to charge and eventually cheaper.

 

Cecilia Mattea, Clean Vehicles Officer at T&E, comments: ‘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.’

 

The research also finds the new technology can reduce the climate impact of batteries even further – by 39% compared to current lithium batteries – if SSBs 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.

 

SSBs could require up to 35% more lithium than the current lithium-ion technology, but far less graphite and cobalt are used. The EU is proposing new batteries regulation, requiring lithium to be sourced responsibly – in terms of environmental and social impacts – and recycled. T&E says that this is a ‘no regrets’ policy that would ensure there is enough supply for SSBs. It is calling on MEPs and EU governments to both ensure the legislation incentivises the production of batteries with a lower carbon footprint and increases lithium recycling targets to 70% in 2025 and 90% in 2030 – higher than what the EU Commission has proposed. T&E is also calling for companies to be required by law to protect human rights and the environment in all stages of battery production.

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