MO.3.B || Prospective Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment of Energy Technologies

Wickerts, Sanna; Arvidsson, Rickard; Chordia, Mudit; Nordelöf, Anders; Svanström, Magdalena; Johansson, Patrik

In order to reduce the global dependency on fossil fuels by adopting renewable energy technologies and advancing electromobility, batteries are a key technology. Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are currently the dominant rechargeable battery technology, mainly due to their high energy density. However, most LIBs contain a number of geochemically scarce metals, e.g. cobalt, lithium and nickel. The production of LIBs is furthermore associated with considerable environmental impacts. Battery researchers and companies therefore try to develop the next generation batteries (NGBs) with the same or even higher energy densities than LIBs, while requiring less of scarce metals and causing lower environmental impacts. One promising NGB technology is the lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery, with a potential to significantly improve energy density as compared to current state-of-the-art LIBs. Although Li-S batteries still face a number of scientific and technical challenges, they have a significant advantage over LIBs from a resource point of view: the cells do not require any scarce metals besides lithium. Using prospective life cycle assessment, we will assess the life-cycle environmental impacts of Li-S batteries and compare them to those of LIBs, both modeled at large-scale production. In order to investigate the effect of using less scarce metals on resource impacts, the mineral resource impact category will be given extra attention. We will therefore include a range of mineral resource impact assessment methods, e.g. the abiotic depletion indicator, the surplus ore indicator, and the recently developed crustal scarcity indicator, which takes an explicit long-term perspective on elemental resources in the Earth’s crust. The overall aim is thus to compare the prospective life-cycle impacts of this particular NGB to those of LIBs, with a focus on mineral resources.