Solid-State Batteries Could Cut EV Carbon Emissions, Climate Group Says

Solid-state batteries could cut the carbon footprint of electric vehicle (EV) batteries by 29 percent compared with today’s liquid lithium-ion batteries and could reduce it even further using sustainably sourced materials, a campaign group said on Tuesday. Based on a comparison of one of the most promising solid-state batteries to lithium-ion technology and using sustainable lithium sources, a battery’s carbon footprint could be cut by as much as 39 percent, Transport and Environment (T&E) said. The European climate group called for incentives to cut the carbon footprint in new EV battery regulations being finalised by the European parliament and European Union member states.

Electric vehicles are already far better for the planet,” T&E’s clean vehicles officer Cecilia Mattea said in a statement. “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.”

Solid-state batteries, which use solid ceramic material instead of liquid electrolytes to carry electric current, could store more energy, charge faster and offer greater safety than liquid lithium-ion batteries.

Carmakers including Ford and BMW are working with suppliers to develop solid-state batteries and they should start appearing in EVs in the second half of this decade.

Solid state batteries require less graphite and cobalt, a metal mostly produced in Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a large informal sector with a legacy of unsafe working practices and child labour.

T&E said new lithium mining methods like geothermal wells emit far less CO2 than more commonly used sources including lithium from hard rock that is mined in Australia and refined in China.

While carmakers are also focused on range to ease consumer anxiety over charging infrastructure, but battery makers are already working on the smaller, longer-lasting and cheaper batteries of the future, which also charge more quickly.

While carmakers today chase market leader Tesla, seeking to build cars that can travel 300 miles (482 km) or more between charges, battery startups expect range will matter less as public electric vehicle (EV) chargers become ubiquitous. In the quest for smaller batteries that charge extremely quickly, the startup firms are experimenting with materials like silicon-carbon, tungsten and niobium.

The battery is an EV’s most expensive part, so true fast charging coupled with widely available chargers – a lack of charging infrastructure today is seen as slowing broader adoption of EVs – would allow automakers to build cars with smaller batteries at more affordable prices, yet boost profit by selling more vehicles to a broader audience.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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