New Research: First ‘Green Principles’ for Responsible Electric Vehicle Battery Management

10 principles for electric vehicle batteries
Originally published: 
May, 2019

Ten new “Green Principles” for managing the full lifecycle of electric vehicle (EV) batteries are now available to help guide environmentally responsible EV battery manufacturing, use and end-of-life management.

The principles, published in the Journal of Energy Storage on May 25, were developed by researchers at the Center for Sustainable Systems under sponsorship from the national nonprofit Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC). The principles represent a comprehensive set of recommendations to guide mobile battery deployment and technological development from an environmental perspective.

A second phase of the university’s research will focus on application of the principles for end users, including specific guidance for optimizing battery life and recommended consumer practices, and is expected to be completed by late summer or early fall.

The RBC is a coalition of companies, academics and organizations committed to the responsible management of the batteries of today and tomorrow.

“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.

“As batteries play an ever-larger role in meeting our energy needs, especially in mobile applications, applying these principles will help create a truly circular economy for battery manufacturing, use and recycling.”

Recent analysis from the International Energy Agency predicts that 125 million electric vehicles will be on the road around the world by 2030, and other projections suggest that a total of 2 billion combustion engine and electric vehicles will be on the road globally by 2040, each of which requires a battery.

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.

Building on existing green principles for stationary batteries, these new principles address mobile battery applications, servicing and emissions, metrics and methods for assessment, and ongoing challenges to making continuous environmental improvements.

“It’s about taking science and making it usable in the real world, informing battery technology through a sustainability lens as the market continues to grow. These new principles will be useful to the full range of stakeholders involved in the development of sustainable battery management practices – material suppliers, battery manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers, national labs and recyclers,” Keoleian said.

The principles are applicable to emerging battery technologies such as lithium-ion, and can also enhance the stewardship of existing lead-acid batteries, Keoleian said.

RBC Executive Director Christensen noted that the principles are important steps in the RBC’s “define, develop and demonstrate” process for establishing best practices for mobile batteries.

“These principles define and develop a solid approach to properly managing the next generation of mobile battery technologies,” he said. “Now we’ll continue our work with the university in 2019 to provide more specific guidance to limit battery degradation, including recommended consumer practices for optimizing battery life in electric vehicles and other consumer devices, such as mobile phones, laptop computers and cordless power tools.”

The findings behind the 10 green principles also lend themselves to educational campaigns associated with EV charging strategies to extend battery life and minimize emissions, Christensen said. Other findings focus on design for end-of-life and material recovery; battery round-trip efficiency; and comparisons of battery chemistries in minimizing life cycle environmental impacts.