Responsible Battery Coalition Applauds University of Michigan Research on Lithium-Ion Battery Degradation Calls Research “Important Step” in Educating Consumers About Extending Battery Life

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MILWAUKEE – The Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC) — a leading coalition of companies, academics and organizations dedicated to the responsible management and environmental sustainability of batteries — applauded research published today by the University of Michigan (U-M) in the Journal of Energy Storage on best practices for consumers for extending the life of lithium-ion batteries, as well as the cost savings associated with minimizing degradation. The link to the paper can be found here.

This research is the second phase of work conducted by U-M and supported by RBC.  The first phase was published in May 2019 and outlined ten “Green Principles for Vehicle Energy Storage” (Green Principles) that represent a comprehensive 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 published today, the U-M team expands on Green Principle #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,” said Steve Christensen, executive director of the Responsible Battery Coalition. “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 U-M 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 your phone or laptop out of direct sunlight, or parking and charging your electric vehicle in a shaded or cool location.
  • Minimizing the amount of time a battery spends at either 100% or 0% charge, as both extremely high and low “states of charge” stress batteries.
  • Avoiding “fast-chargers,” that, while convenient, also 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 U-M 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% to over 50% of a product’s cost,” Keoleian said.

“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,” added Christensen.

In developing its list of nine best practices for lithium-ion battery life extension, U-M researchers, supported by the RBC, based their search on a range of sources, including academic publications, manufacturers’ user manuals, and open-source consumer information from customer-support websites.

Research Details

In addition to the academic literature reviewed, researchers also surveyed publicly available information from manufacturers, looking for instructions, guidance, warnings or tips regarding the use and maintenance of lithium-ion batteries.

Those companies included 10 cell phone manufacturers (Apple, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and ZTE), 10 laptop manufacturers (Acer, Apple, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Samsung and Toshiba), four power tool manufacturers (Bosch, DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee Tool), and 10 electric vehicle manufacturers, including RBC members Ford Motor Company and Honda.

Authors of the Journal of Energy Storage paper, in addition to Keoleian, are Maxwell Woody, Maryam Arbabzadeh and Geoffrey M. Lewis of the U-M Center for Sustainable Systems and Anna Stefanopoulou of the U-M Energy Institute.

Read the paper: “Strategies to limit degradation and maximize Li-ion battery service — critical review and guidance for stakeholders”

Featured image courtesy Volkswagen

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