Navigating technical cycles for sustainable energy storage

The role of lithium-ion batteries as a pivotal energy storage technology cannot be overstated. However, as the demand for these batteries continues to rise, so does the need for sustainable practices in their production and consumption. This article delves into the technical cycles of the circular battery, exploring the challenges and opportunities associated with extending the lifespan of these energy storage devices.
Technical cycles of the circular battery. The notion of second life can refer to reuse or remanufacture title=
Source: Battery Passport for Second-Life Batteries: Experimental Assessment of Suitability for Mobile Applications | Preprints

Historically, the linear economic approach of ‘take, make, and dispose’ has dominated the electronics and battery industry. Consumer electronics applications primarily drove the demand for batteries, resulting in a linear model that often leads to waste generation. The recent surge in electric mobility and renewable energy presents an opportunity to transition towards a circular economy, guided by principles that prioritise prolonging the value of products and minimising waste.

The circular economy promotes actions to extend the lifespan of products, and Figure 1 illustrates the different steps advocated by this model. The foremost action is to maximise the application’s lifespan for which the battery was originally produced. Techniques such as thermal management and optimal charging strategies play a crucial role in prolonging battery lifetime.

Second Life for Batteries

When a battery reaches the end of its primary application, the circular economy encourages exploring second-life opportunities. Battery second life involves either complete reuse or partial remanufacture for the original purpose it was designed. Companies like Groupe Renault and Daimler have taken steps by announcing the establishment of second-life battery factories, indicating a shift towards more sustainable practices.

Despite progress, significant challenges persist. The second-life market necessitates a paradigm shift from a stock-based economy to a flow-based economy. The availability of end-of-life batteries from electric vehicles becomes a limiting factor, requiring companies to adapt their systems to the batteries available at a given time and location. This constraint introduces uncertainties in system design and performance due to variations in battery quality and specifications.

While electric mobility is on the rise, the market for end-of-life electric vehicle batteries remains relatively small. In France, for example, only a fraction of electric or hybrid vehicles reached the end of their life compared to their internal combustion counterparts. This limited supply of end-of-life batteries poses challenges for companies aiming to establish a robust second-life market.

he technical cycles of the circular battery present a promising avenue for sustainable energy storage. As the world embraces electric mobility and renewable energy, addressing the challenges associated with second-life batteries becomes crucial. Collaboration between industries, policymakers, and researchers is essential to overcome barriers and facilitate the transition towards a circular economy, ensuring that lithium-ion batteries contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Source: Battery Passport for Second-Life Batteries: Experimental Assessment of Suitability for Mobile Applications | Preprints

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