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Resources 2016, 5(4), 46; doi:10.3390/resources5040046

A Critical Assessment of the Resource Depletion Potential of Current and Future Lithium-Ion Batteries

1
Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU), Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe 76133, Germany
2
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe 76131, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Diego Iribarren and Ian Vázquez-Rowe
Received: 30 September 2016 / Revised: 2 December 2016 / Accepted: 7 December 2016 / Published: 14 December 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Analysis of Energy Systems under Sustainability Aspects)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [661 KB, uploaded 14 December 2016]   |  

Abstract

Resource depletion aspects are repeatedly used as an argument for a shift towards new battery technologies. However, whether serious shortages due to the increased demand for traction and stationary batteries can actually be expected is subject to an ongoing discussion. In order to identify the principal drivers of resource depletion for battery production, we assess different lithium-ion battery types and a new lithium-free battery technology (sodium-ion) under this aspect, applying different assessment methodologies. The findings show that very different results are obtained with existing impact assessment methodologies, which hinders clear interpretation. While cobalt, nickel and copper can generally be considered as critical metals, the magnitude of their depletion impacts in comparison with that of other battery materials like lithium, aluminum or manganese differs substantially. A high importance is also found for indirect resource depletion effects caused by the co-extraction of metals from mixed ores. Remarkably, the resource depletion potential per kg of produced battery is driven only partially by the electrode materials and thus depends comparably little on the battery chemistry itself. One of the key drivers for resource depletion seems to be the metals (and co-products) in electronic parts required for the battery management system, a component rather independent from the actual battery chemistry. However, when assessing the batteries on a capacity basis (per kWh storage capacity), a high-energy density also turns out to be relevant, since it reduces the mass of battery required for providing one kWh, and thus the associated resource depletion impacts. View Full-Text
Keywords: battery; energy storage; environmental impact; life cycle assessment; lithium-ion; resource depletion; sodium-ion; system analysis battery; energy storage; environmental impact; life cycle assessment; lithium-ion; resource depletion; sodium-ion; system analysis
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Peters, J.F.; Weil, M. A Critical Assessment of the Resource Depletion Potential of Current and Future Lithium-Ion Batteries. Resources 2016, 5, 46.

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