Application of Life-Cycle Assessment to Nanoscale Technology: Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles

images[3]Demand for electric vehicles is increasing, and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries with increased ranges will be critical to increasing electric vehicle marketability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While Li-ion batteries are expected to play a key role in the electric drive transportation industry, there are opportunities for improvements in the batteries life-cycles that will reduce possible impacts to the environment and public health in a few specific areas, as their use increases. This study, carried out through a partnership led by EPA, with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Li-ion battery industry, and academics, was the first life-cycle assessment (LCA) to bring together and use life-cycle inventory data directly provided by Li-ion battery suppliers, manufacturers, and recyclers. Its purpose was to identify the materials or processes within a Li-ion batterys life cycle (from materials extraction and processing, manufacturing, use, and end-of-life) that most contribute to impacts on public health and the environment. It also sought to evaluate the potential impacts of a nanotechnology innovation (i.e., a carbon nanotube anode) that could improve battery performance.
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