Mid-nickel lithium ion battery cells can have a lower carbon footprint than high nickel or lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells, according to new data from Benchmark’s Battery Emissions Analyser.
While LFP cells maintain a cost advantage over the majority of nickel-based chemistries, the carbon intensity of these variants can in fact prove more carbon intensive than NCM cells, despite the lack of cobalt and nickel.
LFP batteries require more active and inactive materials than NCM batteries on a kWh basis, due to their lower energy density. That means that to get to the same kWh level, the material intensity is higher resulting in higher emissions.
Furthermore, analysis shows that within mid- and high-nickel NCM batteries, the choice of nickel is very significant, and can tip the balance of carbon competitiveness.
Sourcing nickel from RKEF processing (Rotary Kiln Electric Furnace) instead of HPAL (High Pressure Acid Leaching) resulted in an increase of 58% in carbon emissions at battery cell level.
In addition, the source of energy deployed during the cathode active material (CAM) production process has been shown to have a material impact on the realized carbon intensity.
The buildout of energy storage capacity will be fundamental to the successful transition of energy generation to cleaner sources, Benchmark says. However, to date, there has been limited understanding of the impact of this battery production across battery technologies, much less across lithium-ion chemistries, due to a lack of understanding of real world material intensities and supply chain process routes.
With regulatory pressure increasing, identifying risk hotspots is imperative to developing effective supply chain strategies for all downstream participants.—Charlotte Selvey-Miller, head of sustainability at Benchmark