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Environmental impact assessment on production and material supply stages of lithium-ion batteries with increasing demands for electric vehicles


Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have been expected to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts. However, GHG emissions of lithium ion battery (LiB) production for a vehicle with recycling during its life cycle have not been clarified. Moreover, demands for nickel (Ni), cobalt, lithium, and manganese, which are materials for batteries, are increasing, but they are located in relatively dry areas, and mining is a water-intensive activity. Thus, the environmental impact of water use in mining areas has been raised as an issue, but many unknowns remain. We estimated the demand and scrapped amount for these metals for vehicle LiB until 2030 in Japan to clarify the internal structure of the life cycle impact. We also evaluated the cradle-to-gate GHG emissions from the batteries and the water consumption in Japan’s supplier countries for these metals and their potential of reduction rate with or without pyrometallurgical or hydrometallurgical recycling. We found that GHG emissions can be reduced by only 4.5%, whereas water consumption can be reduced by as much as 13% among Ni-supplying countries, such as Indonesia, with recycling under the closed-loop cycle.

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This study was supported by the Study on Sound Management of Chemicals with Relevant Legal Framework (METI) in FY 2020. The authors would like to thank Dr. N. Kojima, a former assistant professor at Osaka University for providing constructive advice for this research.

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Correspondence to Akihiro Tokai.

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Sakunai, T., Ito, L. & Tokai, A. Environmental impact assessment on production and material supply stages of lithium-ion batteries with increasing demands for electric vehicles. J Mater Cycles Waste Manag 23, 470–479 (2021).

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  • Lithium-ion-battery
  • xEV
  • Recycling
  • GHG emissions
  • Water consumption