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Effects of battery chemistry and performance on the life cycle greenhouse gas intensity of electric mobility


Lithium traction batteries are a key enabling technology for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Traction battery manufacture contributes to vehicle production emissions, and battery performance can have significant effects on life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for PEVs. To assess emissions from PEVs, a life cycle perspective that accounts for vehicle production and operation is needed. However, the contribution of batteries to life cycle emissions hinge on a number of factors that are largely absent from previous analyses, notably the interaction of battery chemistry alternatives and the number of electric vehicle kilometers of travel (e-VKT) delivered by a battery. We compare life cycle GHG emissions from lithium-based traction batteries for vehicles using a probabilistic approach based on 24 hypothetical vehicles modeled on the current US market. We simulate life-cycle emissions for five commercial lithium chemistries. Examining these chemistries leads to estimates of emissions from battery production of 194-494 kg CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per kWh of battery capacity. Combined battery production and fuel cycle emissions intensity for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles is 226-386 g CO2e/e-VKT, and for all-electric vehicles 148-254 g CO2e/e-VKT. This compares to emissions for vehicle operation alone of 140-244 g CO2e/e-VKT for grid-charged electric vehicles. Emissions estimates are highly dependent on the emissions intensity of the operating grid, but other upstream factors including material production emissions, and operating conditions including battery cycle life and climate, also affect life cycle GHG performance. Overall, we find battery production is 5-15% of vehicle operation GHG emissions on an e-VKT basis.

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