As the popularity of electric cars increases, researchers are scrambling to find a way to improve the batteries needed for the cars.
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Industrial Ecology Programme set out with the goal of creating the most environmentally sustainable vehicle fleet possible, which is no small challenge given that there are already an estimated 1 billion cars and light trucks on the world’s roads, a number that is expected to double by 2035.
The researchers have examined the environmental costs of electric vehicles to determine the cradle-to-grave environmental footprint of building and operating these vehicles.
They were able to create an environmental life-cycle screening framework that looked at the environmental and other impacts of extraction, refining, synthesis, performance, durability and recyclability of materials.
By doing this the researchers were able to evaluate the most promising nanomaterials for lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cells (PEMFC) as power sources for electric vehicles.
“Our analysis of the current situation clearly outlines the challenge,” the researchers wrote in a statement. “The materials with the best potential environmental profiles during the material extraction and production phase … often present environmental disadvantages during their use phase … and vice versa.”
By identifying all the environmental costs of different materials used to build electric cars, designers and engineers can make design trade-offs that optimize lithium-ion batteries and PEMFC nanomaterials for electric vehicle usage towards mitigating climate change.
The researchers also are promoting material scientists working with those who conduct life-cycle assessments to ensure that electric cars can be a key contributor to mitigating the effects of transportation on climate change.
Earlier this year, the White House announced on Nov. 3 plans to create a 25,000-mile recharging network for electric cars that will cover 35 states in an effort to decrease the reliance on traditional gasoline running cars and increase the use of more environmentally friendly electric cars.
For more information on this plan, read a recent R&D Magazine article on electric vehicles.
The study, which appeared in Nature Nanotechnology, can be viewed here.