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A Review of Life Cycle Assessment Studies of Electric Vehicles with a Focus on Resource Use

Dolganova, Iulia; Rödl, Anne; Bach, Vanessa; Kaltschmitt, Martin; Finkbeiner, Matthias

Changes in the mobility patterns have evoked concerns about the future availability of certain raw materials necessary to produce alternative drivetrains and related batteries. The goal of this article is to determine if resource use aspects are adequately reflected within life cycle assessment (LCA) case studies of electric vehicles (EV). Overall, 103 LCA studies on electric vehicles from 2009 to 2018 are evaluated regarding their objective, scope, considered impact categories, and assessment methods—with a focus on resource depletion and criticality. The performed analysis shows that only 24 out of 76 EV LCA and 10 out of 27 battery LCA address the issue of resources. The majority of the studies apply one of these methods: CML-IA, ReCiPe, or Eco-Indicator 99. In most studies, EV show higher results for mineral and metal resource depletion than internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV). The batteries analysis shows that lithium, manganese, copper, and nickel are responsible for the highest burdens. Only few publications approach resource criticality. Although this topic is a serious concern for future mobility, it is currently not comprehensively and consistently considered within LCA studies of electric vehicles. Criticality should be included in the analyses in order to derive results on the potential risks associated with certain resources.
Published in: Resources, 10.3390/resources9030032, MDPI