Sustainability ‘must be embedded in battery design’

A report drawn up by UWE suggests the environmental footprint of the emerging technology must be reduced

By Jonny Bairstow

Design features making batteries easier to reuse and recycle are key to ensuring strong energy system performance without damaging the environment.

That’s the suggestion from a report drawn up by the University of the West of England (UWE) for the European Commission, which states high-quality, innovative batteries will be an essential tool in cutting greenhouse gas emissions by storing low carbon energy for homes, businesses and vehicles across Europe.

However, the UWE emphasises it is important to limit their environmental footprint, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, use of raw materials and toxicity.

It argues existing natural reserves of key ingredients for lithium-ion batteries cannot be relied upon in the long term, or in the event of a dramatic increase in demand, because they are likely to be depleted or hard to source.

To mitigate against these concerns, the report suggests increasing the energy density of individual units, which it declares can relieve pressure on resources while boosting performance – it says solid-state lithium or vanadium redox flow batteries could potentially provide this.

UWE also calls for a circular system to be implemented, ensuring batteries can be effectively reused and recycled, meaning less batteries have to be made from scratch, reducing related environmental effects.

It adds a “change in the mindset of new battery development” is required, in which ease-of-disassembly for recycling and reuse is built into the design and manufacture of equipment and infrastructure.

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