Print 32 comment(s) - last by JoanTheSpark.. on Jun 13 at 6:50 AM

But the study offers suggestions for making these batteries better for everyone exposed

A new study shows that lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles could have negative health and environmental impacts, and offers suggestions on how to improve this technology.

The study, conducted by Abt Associates for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), took a look at the materials and processes within a lithium-ion battery’s life cycle in hopes of discovering impacts on public health and the environment. It used data directly from lithium-ion battery suppliers, manufacturers and recyclers for research. 

The study was led by Jay Smith (Abt senior analyst and co-lead of the life-cycle assessment) and Shanika Amarakoon (Abt associate who co-led the life-cycle assessment). 

The researchers found that batteries using cathodes with nickel and cobalt and solvent-based electrode processing are the highest risks for negative health and environmental impacts. These impacts are a result of the production, processing and use of cobalt and nickel metal compounds. The environmental impacts include resource depletion, global warming, and ecological toxicity while the health impacts are poor respiratory, pulmonary and neurological effects.

To lessen such impacts, the study recommends cathode material substitution, recycling of metals from the batteries and solvent-less electrode processing. 

The study also found that the electricity grids for charging lithium-ion batteries contribute to global warming and other environmental and health impacts.

“These impacts are sensitive to local and regional grid mixes,” Amarakoon said.  “If the batteries in use are drawing power from the grids in the Midwest or South, much of the electricity will be coming from coal-fired plants.  If it’s in New England or California, the grids rely more on renewables and natural gas, which emit less greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants."

Abt Associates also looked into the nanotechnology behind battery performance, and concluded that single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) (which are currently being researched for use as anodes) require too much energy for production in the early stages. 

"Over time, if researchers focus on reducing the energy intensity of the manufacturing process before commercialization, the environmental profile of the technology has the potential to improve dramatically,” said Smith.

Source: Abt Associates

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

This is the one that gets me...
By SublimeSimplicity on 6/3/2013 3:27:16 PM , Rating: 2
The study also found that the electricity grids for charging lithium-ion batteries contribute to global warming and other environmental and health impacts.

I find it hard to believe that a mammoth power plant, with no real constraints on its size or weight is worse to the environment than a gas engine that must be light and small because it has to move it's own girth.

So what is the comparison to? Walking?

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By Argon18 on 6/3/2013 4:03:16 PM , Rating: 2
At least in the US, the majority of power generation to feed the grid comes from burning coal. An electric car is in reality, a coal powered car.

The "electric car" is still consuming fossil fuels and producing pollution; only its been geographically shifted. Instead of coming out of the tail pipe of the car, it's coming out the smoke stack of the coal-burning power plant.

Of courses none of this will deter the eco-nazi's and their empty smugness.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By ChronoReverse on 6/3/2013 4:38:09 PM , Rating: 2
A coal burning plant is still more efficient than a car engine even after transmission losses and charging inefficiencies are all are taken into account.

It's simply more efficient to burn en-masse and use a turbine to convert chemical energy that a piston engine.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By Nutzo on 6/3/2013 4:57:22 PM , Rating: 1
Except, you also need to include the pollution created in the manufacturing and recycling of the batteries.
In many cases, the electric car ends up creating MORE pollution then a clean running gas car, or a hybrid with a small battery.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By ChronoReverse on 6/3/2013 5:24:59 PM , Rating: 2
Electric cars have many problems but the environmental cost of the batteries really isn't one of them even if you factor in the manufacturing and recycling.

Mining the lithium in lithium ion batteries isn't really particular more environmentally crushing as mining other metals. Manufacturing batteries is costly but only so much as manufacturer is costly in general.

Too much of the FUD is really about old Nickel Cadmium batteries which aren't even suitable for electric cars in the first place.

By maugrimtr on 6/7/2013 9:24:11 AM , Rating: 2

In this case using a report on the environmental impact of batteries to create fear (batteries are polluting), uncertainty (batteries pollute more than burning fossil fuel in an ICE) and doubt (maybe ICEs are cleaner tech?).

The outcome being utterly false.

Burning coal happens with or without battery usage. I wish we could replace them with something less polluting, but I also wish my emails were not being analyzed by the NSA. Neither is going to happen soon. Using the power being generated that way more efficiently is actually better than burning extra gas in individually inefficient ICEs. That situation improves further as the ratio of renewable energy sources increases.

Before pointing fingers at eco nazis, folk should apply the logic circuits that God built into their brains (allegedly ;)).

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By FaaR on 6/3/2013 7:35:15 PM , Rating: 2
Very likely, that conclusion comes from a study whose financing was provided partly or whole by the oil, gas industry and/or their rich corporate lackeys (Koch bros,

By TheDorkyman on 6/3/2013 8:19:46 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, brother. Here we go again.

Dem mean ol' Koch Brothers. They bad.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By Paj on 6/4/2013 8:08:56 AM , Rating: 2

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By Samus on 6/3/2013 9:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
Not only is Chrono right, but...

•The USA is the world's largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.
•The country's 104 nuclear reactors produced 821 billion kWh in 2011, over 19% of total electrical output. There are now 102 units operable and three under construction.
•Following a 30-year period in which few new reactors were built, it is expected that 4-6 new units may come on line by 2020, the first of those resulting from 16 licence applications made since mid-2007 to build 24 new nuclear reactors.
•However, lower gas prices since 2009 have put the economic viability of some of these projects in doubt.
•Government policy changes since the late 1990s have helped pave the way for significant growth in nuclear capacity. Government and industry are working closely on expedited approval for construction and new plant designs.

Lastly, the majority of electric cars are in larger urban areas, not rural areas. This is an important consideration because the majority of large cities in the United States are nuclear powered.

By FITCamaro on 6/4/2013 8:00:55 AM , Rating: 2
You assume those new reactors will even come online. The last one didn't.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By Dr of crap on 6/4/2013 12:41:54 PM , Rating: 2
The fact that you think that gas prices are lower since 2009, leads me to NOT believe any of your post!

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By BRB29 on 6/4/2013 1:23:58 PM , Rating: 2
At one point in 2009 it did go all the way to $5. It was price gouging at work(debatable). 2008 had a much higher average. I still don't think it beats 2013 average though.

The way oil companies price gas is not what how people think. They use current cost or anticipate cost instead of real actual cost. This is to make sure they make profits.

For example, the supplier has a month of inventory. A gas pipe broke and created a shortage. Demand goes up and prices increase. The pipe will probably be fixed in just a couple days but they won't take that chance. They will price it using the current/anticipated ridiculous high cost even though they have the inventory to last well beyond that. They won't lower the price until the problem is fixed and everything is back to normal. So during that time, they probably did not buy more oil but they certainly made more money.

On top of that, gas stations likes to bump their prices whenever something like that happens. That is how I've seen $5+ gas in North Carolina in 2009. I remember many gas stations were heavily fined for price gouging also.

By lwatcdr on 6/5/2013 9:28:12 AM , Rating: 2
Gas as in natural gas, not gasoline.
Gas as in a gas stove, gas hot water heater, gas furnace.
Gasoline is just not used much for electrical production and has not real impact electrical production. Oil and diesle are used but mostly where natural gas and coal are not practical.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By topkill on 6/3/2013 10:49:43 PM , Rating: 2
No, a "majority" of US power generation does not come from coal. It is now down to 38% from over 52% back in 2002. It is still the single largest individual contributor over natural gas which is now at 30%. But NG is growing and coal is shrinking. NG will probably be bigger by 2015 or 2016.

Look at the spreadsheet in line 1.1 in the following link:

By Dorkyman on 6/4/2013 10:46:38 AM , Rating: 2
Just as an aside, yesterday's Wall Street Journal showed a ling graph of the contributions and the odd thing is that coal is making a resurgence in the States as gas prices gradually rise.

The article also mentioned that India and China are building coal plants at a torrid rate. Not that it affects electricity production domestically, but it also means that no matter what we do here it will have zero effect on reducing world-wide carbon release.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By hubb1e on 6/3/2013 6:36:47 PM , Rating: 2
You are forgetting the transmission losses in moving the electricity hundreds of miles from the plant to the outlet to the car and then to the ground. Those all add up.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By ChronoReverse on 6/3/2013 6:47:47 PM , Rating: 2
They add up but it's still not as inefficient as small car engines. Even adding up the losses in recharging batteries still isn't as inefficient. Gasoline engines are simply _that bad_.

Gasoline engines max out at around 25-30% ASSUMING you're running at the high efficiency range. Which you don't since you have to accelerate and crap. You'll be lucky to get 20% in actual use.

Coal plants start at 30% and go up to 49%. Power transmission losses in the States are around 7%. Lithium ion charging efficiency is about 97%.

You can pretty easily see that at least in terms of efficiency from burn to motion, electric is better. This isn't counting the more expensive infrastructure to ship out fuel to stations.

RE: This is the one that gets me...
By Samus on 6/3/2013 9:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
Gasoline engines, especially those tuned to the United States petroleum products, are inherently inefficient. Most other countries fuel is around 105 octane (the lowest outside of the united states is 95, that'd be in Japan who is unfortunately politically similar to us on this account)

The high octane can account for more aggressive cam timing, spark advanced, increasing compression and efficiency.

Yes, we have E85, and adding ethanol to fuel will increase its octane, but NONE of this is regulated by federal weights and measures. All E85 "has" to be is a minimum 87 octane. Sometimes you might get 100, sometimes you might get 87.

If your engine is programmed for 100 and you put in 87, even your knock sensor won't save your engine. This is why E85 vehicles perform the same but with reduced fuel economy (because ethanol has less energy density than petroleum.) They could potentially have superior performance and identical fuel economy, but because E85 is not regulated, the whole thing is just kind of a joke.

By JoanTheSpark on 6/13/2013 6:50:07 AM , Rating: 2
how come I can get 91(*) octane fuel in AU then and max you is 95?

*) since 6 months with 10% ethanol even

By SublimeSimplicity on 6/4/2013 10:05:32 AM , Rating: 2
I forgot that under every gas station is a tiny oil drilling operation and micro refinery. If you want to count transmitting nearly weightless electrons, how about counting the distribution of oil/gasoline too?

And seriously, what does any of this have to do with LITHIUM ION Batteries? Do those cells have a restriction of only take a charge from coal power plants 100s of miles away?

when environmentalists fight...
By TheEinstein on 6/3/2013 2:46:03 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah this is funny... extreme environmentalist (EV supporter) gets attacked by even more extreme environmentalist (Stone Age is far to damaging to the environment sorta people).

I love watching this fight cause in the end it fractures them, shows outsiders the extremism, and helps us move away from these Gaia worshippers.

Do not get me wrong, it is a full blown religion this environmentalism.

RE: when environmentalists fight...
By spamreader1 on 6/3/2013 3:20:04 PM , Rating: 2
What's funny is when you tell an environmentalist you don't practice their religion they get even more bent.

By TheEinstein on 6/3/2013 3:57:11 PM , Rating: 2
They are vert evangelical as well, nor do they believe in Seperation of Powers

RE: when environmentalists fight...
By Paj on 6/4/2013 8:14:31 AM , Rating: 2
Meanwhile, the US sits in its own little bubble, while the rest of the world gets on with inventing the future.

Badly written article
By foxalopex on 6/4/2013 8:56:53 AM , Rating: 3
I find it disappointing that the article starts off noting that lithium ion batteries are bad for the environment and then right away points out that nickel based batteries are the worst for the environment. So the nickel-metal-hydride batteries we use in the Prius and for our own rechargeable batteries at home are worse than lithium ion batteries huh?

while I don't doubt there is some environmental impact with building a lithium ion battery, the bigger question is in the end is it worth the gas savings? As far as pollution, most cars have a lead-sulphuric acid based battery. Lead isn't exactly environmentally friendly either.

Electricity has the advantage of being the cleanest source of power because it can be generated in any number of ways. An electric car could be wind, solar, natural gas, hydro, nuclear or coal depending on source. Compared to a gas powered vehicle it will get cleaner with time as we clean up our power grids. And we are. A massive number of plants have in recent years been converted to natural gas which while not perfect is a step in the right direction. A gas vehicle only gets worse with time as efficiency tends to die as the engine wears out.

Also anyone who thinks the lithium ion pack in an electric car will be tossed out at the end of its life needs to have their logic checked. We don't even toss out our $100 lead acid batteries, we recycle them. I don't see them tossing out a $10,000 or more battery pack?

RE: Badly written article
By Dorkyman on 6/4/2013 10:57:12 AM , Rating: 2
Recent studies have shown that even if EVs are used in a region that does NOT get its electricity from coal, the net pollution per mile is roughly equivalent to a similar-sized car with a gasoline engine. That's after accounting for all factors for both vehicles.

So you can take your pick and then live with it. For me and my remaining lifetime, it seems pretty obvious that a conventional vehicle is the way to go. In 100 years, that may be different.

By SublimeSimplicity on 6/4/2013 11:06:39 AM , Rating: 2
Wow you really have to turn your mind off to believe a study like that.

As usleless as it gets
By bug77 on 6/4/2013 4:16:17 AM , Rating: 5
The researchers found that batteries using cathodes with nickel and cobalt and solvent-based electrode processing are the highest risks for negative health and environmental impacts.

A real shocker. My doctor gives me those to strengthen my immune system, you know?

The environmental impacts include resource depletion

Does using a metal cause its depletion? I think we need another study on this one.

By The Imir of Groofunkistan on 6/3/13, Rating: 0
RE: asdf
By Dorkyman on 6/4/2013 11:06:10 AM , Rating: 2
Good point. One defining characteristic of progressives is their need to "feel good" about something, even if their actions cause more harm than a common-sense approach would deliver.

"Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains."

Here we go again: AGW
By BernardP on 6/3/2013 3:28:22 PM , Rating: 2
Global warming is caused by everything and causes everything:

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
No More Turtlenecks - Try Snakables
September 19, 2016, 7:44 AM
ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment in Children: Problem or Paranoia?
September 19, 2016, 5:30 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki