Quantifying the Environmental Impacts of Battery Electric Vehicles from a Criticality Perspective

Penaherrera, Fernando; Davila, Maria; Pehlken, Alexandra; Koch, Björn
The transportation sector is facing a radical socioeconomicand socio-ecological transition due to the energy shiftfrom fossil-fuel-based vehicles for the reduction of emissions.Electric vehicles have become the most promising alternativeto internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV). Within them,battery electric vehicles (BEV) appear to be the chosen technologicalsolution. Most BEV use Lithium-ion batteries becauseof their properties. This has increased the demand for suchbatteries exponentially, and consequently for the raw materialsto manufacture them. To assess the sustainability of this shiftholistic analyses are required. The environmental sustainabilityof BEV has been widely discussed, mainly using Life CycleAssessments (LCA). Nevertheless, LCA runs short in providing aholistic assessment. The indicator recommended by the EuropeanCommission for evaluation or resource depletion, the AbioticDepletion Potential (ADP), is insufficient to track the impact ofcritical resource consumption. Current Life Cycle Impact Assessmentmethods are insufficient to provide information to decisionmakersabout the impacts of electromobility when discussingcritical material consumption. To address this gap, this paperpresents a solution by applying a set of indicators which considerscriticality of materials. It uses two methods to characterize theconsumption of critical raw material: the Criticality WeightedADP for the Economic Importance (CWADP) and the weightedGeoPolitical-related Supply Risk (GeoPolRisk/P). To exhibit thefunctionality of these methods, a case study is presented fortransportation of passenger cars, including ICEV, and three typesof BEV, with three different types of lithium-ion batteries (NMC,LFP and LMO). The results show how including criticality ofraw materials in the impact assessment methods changes theoutcome of the analysis on whether BEV are an environmentallysustainable alternative to ICEV. The CWADP and the weightedGeoPolRisk methods show that battery electric vehicles have ahigher consumption of critical raw materials and its impact.While battery electric vehicles present a reduction of greenhousegas emissions of up to 77% per km of transportation, the useof economically important critical materials is increased up to210%, and the use of critical materials with supply risk isincreased up to 163%. The increased use of critical materialscould cause potential problems with concurring markets for useof precious metals and demonstrate raw material supply chainbottlenecks for the case of lithium and cobalt.
Juni / 2022
28th International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Innovation