10 Green Principles For EV Sustainability

Recently published guidelines could help ensure that new battery technologies are sustainable and environmentally sound.

As electrification begins to spread across the transportation sector, the way in which battery systems are developed, manufactured, used, and recycled has a significant effect on the scale of their environmental impact. Growth from just a few percent today to more than 40% of the new vehicle market within the next 10-20 years means that there is a need for a “comprehensive set of recommendations to guide mobile battery deployment and technological development from an environmental perspective.” That was the rationale behind the creation of ten “Green Principles” that were developed by researchers at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability under sponsorship from the national nonprofit Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC).

“We’ve seen rapid growth in electric vehicles in the last few years, and recent projections that EV growth will increase exponentially in the next decade, so the publication of these guiding principles is both timely and highly relevant,” said Steve Christensen, executive director of RBC in a news release.

EVs require different battery considerations than do stationary grid applications. UM researchers have developed “Green Principles” for both applications. (Image source: University of Michigan)

Every Part of the Lifecycle

A team led by Dr. Gregory A. Keoleian, director of the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems and a member of the RBC Scientific Advisory Board, developed the “Green Principles for Vehicle Energy Storage,” which define best practices for minimizing the environmental impact of EV batteries. Drs. Maryam Arbabzadeh and Geoffrey M. Lewis conducted the research with Dr. Keoleian.

“As we look at the full lifecycle of EV batteries – from initial raw materials extraction all the way through end-of-life – it is important to examine all aspects, including how and where charging will occur, maximizing overall performance and ensuring proper recycling,” Keoleian said. The principles were published in an article in the Journal of Energy Storage on May 25. The principles are similar to those previously established by the University of Michigan stationary grid battery applications and are valid for both emerging battery technologies such as lithium-ion, and also the stewardship of existing lead-acid batteries.

Through a close interaction with diverse stakeholders that included battery manufacturers, suppliers, OEMs, recyclers, and ANL and a careful review of existing literature on design, operation, and end-of-life of mobile battery systems, the research team was able to condense the information to the current ten principles. The team understood that the principles are not immutable and that there will often need to be tradeoffs between principles as electrification continues to develop. They have however produced a set of principles that can guide analysis and inform decisions on development and deployment of battery systems for mobile applications.

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