The Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC)—a Milwaukee-based coalition of companies, academics and organizations dedicated to the responsible management and environmental sustainability of batteries— applauded research published Feb. 18 by the University of Michigan in the Journal of Energy Storage regarding best practices for consumers for extending the life of lithium-ion batteries, as well as the cost-savings associated with minimizing degradation.
This research is the second phase of work conducted by the university and supported by RBC. The first phase was published in May 2019 and outlined 10 “Green Principles for Vehicle Energy Storage” that represent a set of recommendations to guide mobile battery deployment and technology development from an environmental perspective, particularly defining best practices for minimizing the environmental impact of electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
In the new research, the university’s team expands on Green Principle No. 6—to design and operate battery systems to maximize service life and limit degradation—by outlining nine consumer best practices for extending battery life to decrease costs and reduce environmental burdens associated with the production of new batteries. The new best practices address material consumption, mining impacts and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the disposal of used batteries.
“As the nation and world shift to economies powered by batteries, it is paramount as responsible stewards of the environment that we extend the life of all types of batteries, particularly those in our cars and trucks,” Steve Christensen, executive director of the Responsible Battery Coalition, says. “This work by such a respected research institution as the University of Michigan is an important first step toward creating a generational change in how consumers use and manage batteries.”
The International Energy Agency has predicted that 125 million electric vehicles will be on roads globally by 2030. The RBC seeks to develop a circular economy for batteries that ensures that they are part of the solution in creating a more sustainable environment.
Many of the recommended practices discovered by the research team are related to three main variables that impact battery health: temperature, state of charge and current. Specific recommendations in the findings include:
- Avoiding temperature extremes, both high and low, when using or storing lithium-ion batteries, with specific recommendations of leaving phones and laptops out of direct sunlight. These also include parking and charging electric vehicles in shaded or cool locations.
- Minimizing the amount of time a battery spends at either 100 percent or 0 percent of charge, as both extremely high and low “states of charge” stress batteries.
- Avoiding “fast-chargers,” that, while convenient, degrade lithium-ion batteries more quickly than standard charging.
“As the mobile electronics and EV industries continue to grow, even small improvements in lifetime extension will have significant environmental benefits,” the authors of the Journal of Energy Storage paper wrote.
“By minimizing exposure to the conditions that accelerate degradation, batteries can last longer. And this has a positive environmental impact, as battery production is a source of greenhouse gas emissions and many other pollutants,” said study corresponding author Greg Keoleian, director of the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems at the School for Environment and Sustainability.“Additionally, there are significant financial incentives for users to avoid adverse conditions, as the cost of lithium-ion batteries can range from 5 percent to over 50 percent of a product’s cost.”
“As an organization whose members include the world’s largest battery manufacturer and recycler, leading automotive aftermarket retailers, and some of the largest auto producers and transportation fleet owners, we’re proud to have been able to support this research to help both industry and consumers get maximum life and value out of their lithium-ion battery products,” Christensen says.