Is Lithium-Ion Battery Bad For The Environment?

Lithium-ion batteries are strong, light, and contain a remarkable energy density. They run our laptops and mobile phones and are increasingly a vital source of storage for electric cars.

Question is, how much more sustainable and ecologically safe these technical lithium extraction techniques are? Are lithium batteries really terrible for the environment? 

The extraction process of lithium is very harmful to the environment. However, lithium batteries directly do not cause damage to the environment. But when it is dumped in the environment it will be an environmental issue. 

Is lithium-ion battery bad for the environment?

Lithium batteries are one of the best alternatives to older kinds of batteries for saving the environment. However, there are also some drawbacks that can be worked out for a better and more sustainable solution.

Manufacturing causes CO2 gas: 

Electric vehicles are propelled by lithium batteries, and their manufacture generates significant CO2 emissions.

Lithium batteries cost roughly 73 kg CO2-equivalent/kWh. One battery with a capacity of 40 kWh or 100 kWh emits 2920 kg and 7300 kg of CO2, respectively.

Battery composition and material:

The cells, that hold the active elements, the battery management system, and the pack, which would be the framework in which the cells are placed, are the three primary components of a lithium-ion battery.

Aluminum is vital for the pack component (because of its small weight), but it is also a very energy-intensive element, accounting for 17% of the whole battery’s carbon footprint.

Mining of materials of lithium battery: 

The cells account for the vast bulk of the energy and carbon footprint associated with lithium battery manufacture.

Particularly, mining, conversion, and refining of the active ingredients of cells where Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt (NCM), and lithium are refined into cathode powder account for 40% of the entire climatic effect of the battery.

Cell manufacturing: 

Cell manufacture is the second most energy-intensive process, accounting for 20% of total CO2/kWh.

This figure is extremely reliant on the plant’s capacity because many of the energy-intensive operations in cell manufacture include drying and heating.

This takes place in huge rooms where the energy needed remains constant regardless of whether one or thousands of cells are being produced.

Carbon footprint:

The source of energy required during the production process is one of the causes of the high carbon footprint of lithium battery production.

Batteries are being manufactured in nations where the energy mix is less than ideal (such as China which produces 60 percent of its electricity from coal).

The carbon footprint of batteries will be reduced if they are manufactured in nations with larger percentages of cleaner energy sources (renewables and nuclear).

The Environmental and Ethical Problems With Lithium-Ion Batteries

Can lithium batteries be reused?

Reusing outdated electric car batteries is doable and becoming increasingly common!

The lithium-ion battery is ready for a recycle after it has reached the limit of its “automotive” life. Its performance is plenty enough for a variety of applications such as stationary energy storage.

Stationary energy battery storage functions as a buffer to handle supply and demand fluctuations in cleaner yet less predictable energy options such as wind and solar.

Old batteries may be used to power street lights (in conjunction with solar panels) and houses. 

A worldwide automaker is utilizing the islands of Belle-Île-en-Mer and Porto Santo as an experiment for full-scale studies on storage.

They use electric vehicle batteries as well as local distribution of green power generated by local renewable energy sources.

Another endeavor on the Seine in Paris involves the installation of refurbished batteries in recreational boats at the Paris Yacht Marina.

Which batteries are the most environmentally friendly?

Sodium batteries are one of the environment-friendly batteries that are still in the process of being researched. It can be a great alternative to lithium-ion batteries. 

Sodium is found in the column on the very left of the periodic table, immediately below lithium. That is, they have qualities that are comparable to one another.

However, it is not as easy as eliminating lithium and replacing it with sodium. Sodium batteries are more eco-friendly than lithium as some researchers suggest.

The anode in lithium-ion batteries is nearly typically comprised of graphite, but it does not function at all for sodium.

In a lithium battery, lithium ions fall between the layers of graphite’s crystal structure, with no dramatic modifications to the structure itself.

Scientists work with sodium batteries, which necessitates the use of elements other than graphite in the anode.

The problem is that when these materials are exposed to ions, their composition changes.

However, this is still under experiment. But there is another battery which is said to be more eco-friendly.

Organic flow batteries are supposed to be safe, ecologically benign, and inexpensive.

Simply put, the battery serves as an alternative to the regularly utilized lithium-ion batteries and vanadium flow batteries.

And, as this study indicates, they are also long-lasting.

Nevertheless, there can be a debate on the effectiveness of these batteries and what they claim to be.

What are the possibilities of lithium batteries?

Lithium batteries are growing fast and the demand is rising very high.

With all the new devices and technologies, the requirement for lithium batteries is more than ever and in the very future, these batteries will be needed for most cars as well.

There some many benefits of lithium-ion batteries also.

Environmental benefits:

Lithium batteries are rechargeable. And, without a doubt, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries lessen our environmental effect. Some of the numerous advantages of lithium include, but are not limited to:

  • Energy production was maximized
  • Faster and more energy-efficient charging
  • Weight reduction
  • The energy that is cleaner and more ecologically friendly

Lithium-ion batteries are not only more environmentally friendly to produce (they use naturally produced lithium and metal alloys), and they’re also biodegradable, recyclable, and emission-free. More and more businesses are recognizing the benefits of lithium batteries and bringing lithium technology to use in a variety of applications throughout the world.

Provide The most efficient power source for:

  • Electric vehicles 
  • Vessels for the sea
  • Applications for solar power

The reasons for global warming are still being discussed and are difficult to nail down, but most scientists point to our growing reliance on fossil fuels as a major contributor.

One battery at a time, green batteries are trying to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and improve the state of our world. Is this a foregone conclusion that there will be snow this winter? Not exactly, but we are moving in that direction.

Conclusion

Lithium batteries are used in our daily lives. From cars to our mobile phones, everything is using lithium batteries nowadays. And the increase of these devices and machines, the demand for these batteries is rising drastically. 

However, it does not come without a price! With lots of mining and using of lithium batteries, the environment can be at risk. Biodiversity can be hampered and resources can be damaged. 

But the good news is, many scientists are working on how to develop eco-friendly mining and also trying to find a better alternative for us. 

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