Lithium batteries, including lithium hydride and lithium-ion batteries, have become popular in consumer electronic devices because of their light weight, high energy density, and relatively long service life. Lithium is so reactive that it will catch fire if it comes into contact with water. However, modern lithium batteries use chemically bound lithium, so they are not easy to react to. Like nickel batteries, there are many variations of lithium batteries, but the most popular one is lithium-ion batteries. These designs result in the absence of free lithium at any stage of the charge or discharge cycle.
The application of lithium battery in power grids and utilities has begun to grow and has been tested in many places. In 2013, an early large experimental battery storage device, rated at 2 megawatts, was put into operation in the Orkney Islands off the northwest coast of Scotland. In 2017, US utility San Diego Gas and Power Company (San Diego Gas and Electric) opened a 30-megawatt battery storage facility based on lithium-ion batteries with a storage capacity of 120MW hours. Southern California Edison Utilities is also planning to build a 20-megawatt facility. The future development of lithium batteries is likely to benefit from carmakers' interest in using lithium batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles.
Lithium batteries are being used more and more, but what are the related environmental impacts? Batteries are famous for their great impact on the environment. This chapter focuses on the environmental impact of two kinds of lithium battery chemicals used in electric vehicles. How to evaluate the environmental performance of two different lithium batteries? To avoid the shift of burden from one lifecycle phase to another, a complete lifecycle perspective is important. A good way to assess the environment of a product is to adopt a life cycle approach; that is, all life cycle stages of the product are taken into account. This chapter first focuses on the availability and demand of lithium. Is it possible to meet the demand for lithium in the future? It is concluded from the extensive literature review that the availability of lithium may not constitute an obstacle.
However, in order to ensure this situation, certain conditions must be met. Secondly, a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) was carried out, and lithium manganate (LMO) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries were compared. LCA covers all life stages of the traction battery, including the extraction of raw materials, the manufacture and use of the battery and the final disposal and recycling of the materials contained in the battery. The overall environmental performance of the battery depends to a large extent on its efficiency and is directly related to the energy mix related to its use. Life durability and efficiency are key environmental performance indicators. The difference between the two types of batteries is in the manufacturing and recycling stages. The scores of the two technologies are different depending on the type of impact.
Rechargeable lithium batteries have conquered the market for portable consumer electronics and, more recently, electric and hybrid systems for different types of vehicles. Since the 1990s, consumer applications such as mobile phones, laptops and calculators, digital cameras and cameras, portable radios and televisions, electric razors and toothbrushes, and medical and communications equipment have created a growing market for powerful rechargeable batteries. Lithium batteries are rapidly replacing Ni-MH batteries. Since the beginning of the 21st century, large advanced lithium batteries are becoming a new source of energy in transportation and fixed power markets, including electric vehicle propulsion, backup power, ocean observation mobile robots, and mission-critical applications. So far, lithium-ion batteries have not been used to a great extent in storing renewable energy and balancing the power grid.