Geopolitical-related supply risk assessment as a complement to environmental impact assessment: the case of electric vehicles
- 1.1k Downloads
Introducing a geopolitical-related supply risk (GeoPolRisk) into the life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) framework adds a criticality aspect to the current life cycle assessment (LCA) framework to more meaningfully address direct impacts on Natural Resource AoP. The weakness of resource indicators in LCA has been the topic of discussion within the life cycle community for some time. This paper presents a case study on how to proceed towards the integration of resource criticality assessment into LCA under the LCSA. The paper aims at highlighting the significance of introducing the GeoPolRisk indicator to complement and extend the established environmental LCA impact categories.
A newly developed GeoPolRisk indicator proposed by Gemechu et al., J Ind Ecol (2015) was applied to metals used in the life cycle of an electric vehicle, and the results are compared with an attributional LCA of the same resources. The inventory data is based on the publication by Hawkins et al., J Ind Ecol 17:53–64 (2013), which provides a current, transparent, and detailed life cycle inventory data of a European representative first-generation battery small electric vehicle.
Results and discussion
From the 14 investigated metals, copper, aluminum, and steel are the most dominant elements that pose high environmental impacts. On the other hand, magnesium and neodymium show relatively higher supply risk when geopolitical elements are considered. While, the environmental indicator results all tend to point the same hotspots which arise from the substantial use of resources in the electric vehicle’s life cycle, the GeoPolRisk highlights that there are important elements present in very small amounts but crucial to the overall LCSA. It provides a complementary sustainability dimension that can be added to conventional LCA as an important extension within LCSA.
Resource challenges in a short-term time perspective can be better addressed by including social and geopolitical factors in addition to the conventional indicators which are based on their geological availability. This is more significant for modern technologies such as electronic devices in which critical resources contribute to important components. The case study advances the use of the GeoPolRisk assessment method but does still face certain limitations that need further elaboration; however, directions for future research are promising.
KeywordsCriticality assessment Electric vehicle Environmental impacts Geopolitical-related supply risk Life cycle assessment Resources
We would like to thank Christoph Helbig for helping to develop the Geopolitical Supply Risk method. The authors also acknowledge the financial support of the Region of Aquitaine for the Chair on Life Cycle Assessment (CyVi) at the University of Bordeaux to carry out this work.
- DOE (2011) Critical materials strategy. US Department of Energy, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- European Commission (2010) Critical raw materials for the EU, Report of the Ad-hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials. Eucom 39:1–84Google Scholar
- European Commission (2011) International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook : Recommendations for Life Cycle Impact Assessment in the European context. EUR 24571 EN. Eur Comm 159. doi: 10.278/33030Google Scholar
- European Commission (2012) Security of supply and scarcity of raw materials: towards a methodological framework for sustainability assessment. Joint European Centre–Institute for Environment and SustainabilityGoogle Scholar
- European Commission (2014) Report on critical raw materials for the EU: report of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Defining Critical Raw Materials. Brussels, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
- Gaines L, Nelson P (2010) Lithium-ion batteries: examining material demand and recycling issues. Proc. 2010 TMS Annu Meet Exhib Sustain Mater Process Prod SympGoogle Scholar
- Gemechu ED, Helbig C, Sonnemann G et al (2015) Import-based indicator for the geopolitical supply risk of raw materials in life cycle sustainability assessments. J Ind Ecol. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12279
- Goedkoop M, Heijungs R, Huijbregts M et al. (2013) ReCiPe 2008: A life cycle impact assessment method which comprises harmonised category indicators at the midpoint and the endpoint level - Report I: CharacterisationGoogle Scholar
- Guinée JB, Gorrée M, Heijungs R et al (2002) Handbook on life cycle assessment: operational guide to the ISO standards. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
- ISO (2006) ISO 14040 International Standard. In: Environmental management—life cycle assessment—requirements and guidelinesGoogle Scholar
- Long K, Van Gosen B, Foley N, Cordier D (2012) The principal rare earth elements deposits of the United States: a summary of domestic deposits and a global perspective. In: Sinding-Larsen R, Wellmer F-W (eds) Non-Renewable Resour. Issues SE - 7. Springer, Netherlands, pp 131–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Moss R, Tzimas E, Willis P et al. (2013a) Critical metals in the path towards the decarbonisation of the EU energy sector—assessing rare metals as supply-chain bottlenecks in low-carbon energy technologies. Publication Office of the European Union, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
- National Research Council (2008) Minerals, critical minerals, and the U.S. economy. The National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- UN (2014) United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database. In: United Nations Stat. Div. http://comtrade.un.org/db/
- UNEP (2011) Towards a life cycle sustainability assessment: making informed choices on products. UNEP/SETAC, ParisGoogle Scholar
- USGS (2013) Mineral commodity summaries 2013. U.S. Geological Survey, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- USGS (2014) Mineral commodity summaries 2014. U.S. Geological Survey, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- USGS (2015) Mineral commodity summaries 2015. U.S. Geological Survey, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- World Bank (2014) Worldwide Governance Indicators. http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/worldwide-governance-indicators
- WTO (2013) China—measures related to the exportation of various raw materials—reports of the Appellate Body. Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- WTO (2014) China—measures related to the exportation of rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum—reports of the Appellate Body. Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- Young SB (2015) Responsible sourcing of metals: certification approaches for conflict minerals and conflict-free metalsGoogle Scholar
- Young SB, Dias G (2011) LCM of metals supply to electronics: tracking and tracing “Conflict Minerals.” Towar. Life Cycle Sustain. Manag.-Aug 29–31. Berlin, Germany, p 12Google Scholar
- Zepf V, Reller A, Rennie C et al. (2014) Materials critical to the energy industry. An introduction, 2nd edn. London, United KingdomGoogle Scholar