When I make my next vehicle purchase it will be electric! However, I do not know which one or the timeline yet. More importantly, there are many exciting new options and models of electric vehicles that will be available in the next couple of years. When I tell people I want an electric vehicle their first response is usually that they have heard that electric vehicles are not any better for the environment because of the environmental impact of the batteries. Well, is this true or not true? This is where a life cycle assessment / analysis can provide that information to make an informed decision and answer this question.

Life Cycle Assessment Figure

What is A Life Cycle Assessment / Analysis

As defined by Wikipedia: “Life-cycle assessment or life cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life-cycle analysis) is a methodology for assessing environmental impacts associated with all the stages of the life-cycle of a commercial product, process, or service”. The increased concern for environmental protection and the impacts from manufacturing and consuming products has led to LCA’s to help understand and address these impacts.”

The diagram above shows the cycle of how a manufactured product environmental impacts are assessed. For example, in the case of a manufactured product, environmental impacts are assessed from the resource or raw material extraction stage through the product’s manufacture, distribution and use, to the recycling or final disposal of the materials at the end of the products life.

Additionally, the Wikipedia definition notes that “An LCA study involves a thorough inventory of the energy and materials that are required across the industry value chain of the product, process or service, and calculates the corresponding emissions to the environment.[2] LCA thus assesses cumulative potential environmental impacts. The aim is to document and improve the overall environmental profile of the product.[2]

Why complete a LCA?

Moreover, some of the reasons that a company would want to complete a LCA include:

  • Identifies where improvement can be achieved in a product’s life cycle and helps to target the areas of greatest impact;
  • Informs decision makers to setting priorities and process design or re-design;
  • The selection of relevant environmental indicators; and
  • Use of marketing the product as meeting environmental indicators.

Example LCA – Solar Cells

For example, scientists from Cornell University and University of Cambridge conducted detailed life cycle analysis including the energy needed to manufacture the devices and their impact on the environment. Therefore, they studied the energy needed to process and purify raw materials for two styles of tadem solar cells; one with a perovskites layer and a silicon layer and one with two types of perovskites. The table below provides a brief summary of some of their detailed LCA results.

Perovskite Solar Cell; tandem solar cell
Sources: https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/perovskite-solar-cells
Cell TypeYears for Energy Generation = Energy to ManufactureGreenhouse Gas Emissions g CO2e/kw-hr
Perovskite-based tandem solar cells1.44 years10.7
Commercial silicon cells1.52 years24.6
Ref: Sci. Adv 2020 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.abboo55 https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/31/eabb0055/tab-article-info
Shows different types of electric vehicles
Electric Vehicles

In conclusion, how about those LCA findings on the electric car battery? FOURSES can tell you. Just drop us a note at contact@fources.com and put LCA – Electric Car Battery in the subject line and we will send you all the details and the data.