Green Batteries: Lowering the Energy Storage Manufacturing Carbon Footprint
- The EU Batteries Regulation includes a CO2 footprint declaration in 2024, classification by 2026 and maximum limits by 2027 on lithium-ion batteries produced in the EU.
- Higher gravimetric density and less carbon intensive materials and processes will help decrease upstream CO2 footprint.
- Green manufacturing technology and lower cost will help the EU achieve larger social and strategic initiatives.
The EU Batteries Regulation is a legal framework the European battery value chain will be operating under within EU member states. The goal of the legislation is to create a circular industry that is both economically competitive and environmentally responsible throughout the entire battery lifecycle. On March 17th, 2022, the Council adopted the draft regulation. From there the Council and the Parliament will enter into tripartite negotiations to reach an agreement on the final text at first reading. If negotiations are successful, the regulation could be adopted as early as this year with a staggered start on when specific regulations enter into force.
The carbon footprint threshold may be one of the more difficult regulations to comply with for EU battery manufacturers. At present, very little of the upstream battery value chain exists within the EU and materials are typically mined and processed in jurisdictions with less strict environmental regulations and concern for carbon emissions. This is a serious concern as half or more of a battery’s carbon footprint comes from material mining and refining. The other part of the footprint comes from manufacturing activities themselves. While the EU grid sourced 64% from non-carbon generation in 2020 the war in Ukraine and extreme weather events have forced member states to more carbon intensive generation and countries like Germany to revert to coal power to meet electricity demand. These are examples of many potential disruptions that can revert a grid back to carbon intensive electricity generation.
In addition to environmental requirements battery makers within the EU will also have to manufacture high performance, durable batteries potentially adding additional costs in a highly competitive marketplace. EU battery manufacturers who are planning, building, and operating gigafactories can look to innovative solutions that allow them to meet compliance utilizing their existing IP, equipment, and supply chains while producing economically viable batteries. We will examine how Nanoramic Laboratories and Neocarbonix® at the Core can help EU battery manufacturers meet their business objectives while staying in compliance.
Up to half of a battery’s carbon footprint can come from manufacturing activities. This will vary drastically, particularly in Europe where gigafactories may be powered by hydroelectric in Norway and coal in Poland. Add to this uncertainty periodic electricity imports from neighboring countries with different energy mixes. In all cases reducing the amount of electricity to manufacture batteries will reduce current and potential carbon footprints.
The other part of a battery’s carbon footprint comes from upstream materials production. Mining is considered a hard-to-abate sector and battery metals are no exception. Cells that achieve higher loading in active materials and higher gravimetric density overall will have lower embodied carbon per kilowatt-hour. Material technologies that enable use of less carbon intensive substitute materials like silicon can further reduce carbon footprint.
Performance and durability requirements must also be maintained as part of the EU Batteries Regulation. While performance is not specifically defined yet it is generally assumed to be energy or gravimetric density typically expressed as Wh/kg. This requirement would go hand in hand with other requirements to maximize aggregate capacity in the most economically and environmentally efficient manner possible. European OEMs like Volkswagen and Stellantis have made announcements to use lower density chemistries like LFP and High Manganese which are lower performing than their traditional nickel-manganese counterparts. The Neocarbonix® process, developed by Nanoramic Laboratories can help ensure that lower density chemistries meet performance requirements by enabling higher loading in both the cathode and anode.
Battery durability can become an issue for any EV in real world scenarios where commercial fast charging is the only option. According to a 2021 Boston Consulting Group report 33% of European EV drivers cannot install a charger at home. This necessitates regular fast charging at public charging stations which can diminish cycle life in traditional batteries with PVDF binder. Batteries manufactured using the Neocarbonix at the Core technology have much lower internal resistance and are better able to maintain a normal cycle life with regular fast charging. Furthermore, the ability to regularly fast charge with a lower likelihood of battery damage can help consumers in their pursuit of smaller, less expensive battery packs which also have smaller carbon footprint.
N-Methylpyrrolidone or NMP is used as a solvent in the manufacture of almost every li-ion battery currently in production. It is a critical component to electrode manufacturing and its drying and safe handling can account for up to 48% of all energy consumption in battery manufacturing. The energy intensity is due at least in part to keeping NMP, a toxic substance, out of contact from workers and the surrounding environment. Exposure to NMP either through skin contact or inhalation can cause respiratory irritation, damage to the nervous system, and harm to reproductive systems. In May 2020 the European Union commenced enforcement of what may be the most restrictive set of regulations in the world regarding NMP use and handling. In December 2022 the EPA in the United States released a final revised risk determination for NMP which finds that NMP presents an unreasonable risk of injury to human health when evaluated under its conditions of use and proposes a rule to regulate NMP. While appropriate and necessary, these regulations will likely add costs for environmental equipment as well as ongoing costs to ensure continued compliance with regulations. Additional safety measures to protect manufacturing facility workers against the harmful effects of NMP exposure in the EU and USA will likely put these markets at a further disadvantage to their Asian counterparts. Eliminating NMP from the battery manufacturing process entirely would eliminate the uncertainty regarding more restrictive regulations on NMP use. Replacing it with a water-based coating process like Neocarbonix® at the Core could significantly reduce the carbon footprint and other environmental concerns caused by NMP.
Recycling binderless electrode material may be less complex and less energy intensive for both manufacturing scrap and end-of-life batteries. This is an important lifecycle consideration as it relates to lifecycle carbon footprint and other environmental impact of battery manufacturing and use. A 2019 paper published by Argonne National Labs stated that binderless electrodes could reduce recycling costs by reducing the resources needed like energy and reagents. Zarko Meseldzija is Chief Executive Officer of RecycliCo, a Canadian lithium-ion recycler focused on manufacturing scrap that has developed a hydro-to-cathode upcycling process. When asked about the recycling aspect of binderless electrodes he stated “recyclers are always looking for more efficient methods to separate and find a new home for waste materials, but in the case of a waste lithium-ion battery, it includes a number of different materials. Binderless electrode technology shows a commitment from lithium-ion battery manufacturers to work together with the recycler to reduce harmful waste. In theory, using less materials creates a simplified and more environmentally friendly separation process.”
Neocarbonix® at the Core also enables lower energy consumption during manufacturing per kWh produced:
Neocarbonix combined manufacturing and materials efficiency produces a significantly lower carbon footprint to ensure compliance with current and future regulations:
In addition to the environmental and regulatory benefits Neocarbonix® at the Core provides to battery manufacturers there are also significant cost and performance advantages. All of these advantages can be realized using existing equipment and future risk of breaching CO2 footprint thresholds for both the material and manufacturing components can be mitigated.
Neocarbonix® at the Core works with existing equipment and can be applied to optimize setups for new facilities. Whether it’s the 1TWh of annual capacity that exists today or the additional 5 TWh that are planned by 2030, Nanoramic Laboratories is the manufacturing technology partner that can reduce your carbon footprint, lower costs, and mitigate regulatory compliance risks by eliminating NMP. If you are a manufacturer, equipment maker, or material supplier please contact us regarding potential partnerships.
To learn more about how Neocarbonix at the Core reduces battery manufacturing energy consumption, reach out to our sales team here.
About the Author
Charlie Parker is founder and principal consultant of Ratel Consulting, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He leads the energy storage practice, which focuses on the battery value chain and lifecycle and advises startups, corporations, financial institutions, and nonprofits. He is a founding member of the Green Finance Institute’s Coalition for the Decarbonization of Road Transport.
 Nanoramic and Neocarbonix are trademarks of FastCap Systems Corporation, doing business as Nanoramic Laboratories. © 2022 FastCap Systems Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
 Total - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652622021734?via%3Dihub. Page 2 ; Composition - https://www.mdpi.com/2313-0105/7/1/14, page 12