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Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Nov 20;46(22):12704-10. doi: 10.1021/es302420z. Epub 2012 Oct 30.

Impact of recycling on cradle-to-gate energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of automotive lithium-ion batteries.

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  • 1Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue, Argonne, Illinois 60439, USA.


This paper addresses the environmental burdens (energy consumption and air emissions, including greenhouse gases, GHGs) of the material production, assembly, and recycling of automotive lithium-ion batteries in hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and battery electric vehicles (BEV) that use LiMn(2)O(4) cathode material. In this analysis, we calculated the energy consumed and air emissions generated when recovering LiMn(2)O(4), aluminum, and copper in three recycling processes (hydrometallurgical, intermediate physical, and direct physical recycling) and examined the effect(s) of closed-loop recycling on environmental impacts of battery production. We aimed to develop a U.S.-specific analysis of lithium-ion battery production and in particular sought to resolve literature discrepancies concerning energy consumed during battery assembly. Our analysis takes a process-level (versus a top-down) approach. For a battery used in a BEV, we estimated cradle-to-gate energy and GHG emissions of 75 MJ/kg battery and 5.1 kg CO(2)e/kg battery, respectively. Battery assembly consumes only 6% of this total energy. These results are significantly less than reported in studies that take a top-down approach. We further estimate that direct physical recycling of LiMn(2)O(4), aluminum, and copper in a closed-loop scenario can reduce energy consumption during material production by up to 48%.

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