- Consideration of environmental compatibility over the entire life cycle
- Gasoline and diesel vehicles with poor eco-balance on the road
- Plug-in hybrids and e-cars compensate for disadvantages in production when driving
- Advances in battery technology are making electric drives more and more attractive
- CO2-neutral energy supply for the assembly plants also plays a role
- Recycling concept: from reuse to recycling
The ecological balance in terms of CO2 emissions is playing an increasingly important role for automobile manufacturers. Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are the means of choice to noticeably reduce CO2 emissions in relation to your own fleet. As Mercedes-Benz has now indicated, the balance of CO2 emissions from e-cars and PHEVs is positive despite the great effort. Reason enough to take a closer look at this.
What is important here is the fact that the entire life cycle is considered in order to obtain a realistic picture. In this way, e-vehicles or electrified vehicles can make up for a large part of the initially higher CO2 emissions in production with emission-free driving. Further reductions in the resources in the production area also further optimization potential is available.
The aim of Daimler AG is to reduce the use of primary raw materials for electric drives by 40 percent by 2030. In addition to the economical use of resources, the refurbishment of components and the recycling of raw materials used play an important role. The holistic approach also includes the use of vehicle batteries in stationary energy storage systems.
Consideration of environmental compatibility over the entire life cycle
In order to be able to evaluate the environmental compatibility of a vehicle, the company considers the emissions and resource consumption of its own vehicles over the entire life cycle. This is done by means of a life cycle assessment that records the most important environmental impacts – from raw material extraction to production and use to recycling. This shows that the environmental balance of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in terms of CO2 emissions is already positive, despite the greater effort involved in production.
Because despite a significantly higher energy requirement in production, PHEV and e-vehicles already have significant advantages in terms of CO2 emissions compared to conventional drives. In the best case, Daimler comes here to about 45 percent of the total emissions. This more than compensates for the investment of more CO2 emissions in production.
Daimler board member Martin Daum says that future EU CO2 limits can only be achieved with the help of electromobility. This applies to both cars and trucks.
Gasoline and diesel vehicles with poor eco-balance on the road
Today, the production of a conventional gasoline-powered car generates about 20 percent of the CO2 emissions that this vehicle generates over its average lifespan of 200.000 km will cause. In other words: the energy consumption while driving, including the extraction, production and distribution of the fuel, accounts for 80 percent of the CO2 emissions of a petrol engine car.
In comparison, the balance of a diesel vehicle is more positive. A similar number of emissions occur in production, but fuel consumption is significantly lower. The bottom line is that this leads to CO2 savings of around 13 percent over the life cycle.
Plug-in hybrids and e-cars compensate for disadvantages in production when driving
If you now include plug-in hybrids in the equation, it becomes apparent that these technological components, especially the high-voltage battery, cause 20 percent higher CO2 emissions than a comparable car with a conventional drive in production. Consistent use of the plug-in function, regular charging of the battery from the mains and greater efficiency when driving enable 40 percent fewer CO2 emissions when driving, even with the current electricity mix. Assuming that the battery is charged with electricity from renewable energy sources, the CO2 savings when driving increase to 70 percent.
Despite the significantly greater effort involved in manufacturing, the plug-in hybrid can save a large proportion of the CO2 emissions over its entire life cycle and, in the best-case scenario, accounts for around 45 percent of the total emissions of a combustion engine. This more than justifies the investment of more CO2 emissions in production.
If you now look at purely electric vehicles, the CO2 emissions caused in production increase again significantly. During production, these still cause 80 percent higher CO2 emissions than a combustion engine. However, when driving with a conventional electricity mix, you save about 65 percent CO2 compared to this. As a result, their total CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle are at least 40 percent lower with the same mileage.
If you only use regenerative electricity to drive your electric car, then the CO2 emissions will fall by over 70 percent over the life cycle compared to a comparable combustion engine. The fuel cell drive comes up with very similar figures, which causes fewer emissions during production than the battery vehicle, but slightly more emissions during driving, and where the provision of hydrogen has a major influence on the overall effect.
Advances in battery technology are making electric drives more and more attractive
It can therefore be stated that the optimization of battery technology and production offers great potential for further savings. Even today’s batteries cause around 25 percent less CO2 emissions during production than traction batteries of the first generation. For the next generation, experts are promising savings of the same magnitude: the future batteries will therefore cause only half as much CO2 emissions in production as the first generation and a third less than today’s.
Furthermore, future battery generations will require fewer raw materials. In particular, materials such as cobalt, the extraction of which is associated with severe environmental pollution, will be almost completely replaced. The batteries will have a higher energy density and be smaller and lighter with the same range, or achieve significantly longer ranges with the same size and weight.
This results in a positive upward trend for the environmental balance and attractiveness of electromobility. Because these will continue to improve in the long term – especially if the energy is obtained from renewable sources. With these considerations in mind, it also explains why Daimler has set itself the goal of reducing the use of primary raw materials in the electric powertrain by 40 percent by 2030.
In addition to the reduction of rare raw materials in the field of vehicle batteries, it is also important to promote the recycling of the raw materials used such as lithium, nickel, platinum, cobalt and rare earths. Because this is an integral part of the consideration and begins with the design of the components. This view extends to monitoring the entire supply chain from the mine to recycling. Great attention is also paid to compliance with human rights in the working conditions of employees.
For example, Mercedes-Benz Cars carries out on-site checks with interdisciplinary teams. To increase the impact of its own measures, Daimler AG is involved in numerous initiatives, including the Responsible Cobalt Initiative. By joining, the company joins forces with other commercial enterprises. With the Human Rights Respect System, Daimler has a systematic approach to avoiding human rights violations in supply chains. The claim: clean origin of the raw materials, certifiable standards and a transparent supply chain from the mine to the recycling of the vehicle.
CO2-neutral energy supply for the assembly plants also plays a role
The fact that the balance of CO2 emissions from e-cars and PHEVs is positive despite the great effort is partly due to the CO2-neutral energy supply of the production sites. For this reason, all Mercedes-Benz plants in Germany will be converted to a CO2-neutral energy supply, for example from wind and hydropower, by 2022. This reduces the CO2 expenditure in the life cycle of the vehicles by the proportion that is attributable to the assembly of the components.
Recycling concept: from reuse to recycling
Let’s go back to the topic of recycling. Findings on the recycling of lithium-ion batteries have already been collected in various research projects and in cooperation with suppliers and disposal partners. In the process, innovative recycling concepts were developed that enable high-quality recovery of the valuable components or components. enable ingredients. The company has therefore defined four stages for the recycling process and developed corresponding processes:
- ReUse: Battery reuse. Here, the refurbishment is limited to cleaning work and the replacement of parts with a limited service life, e.g. B. fuses.
- RePair: This more in-depth repair level also includes repair work on the battery. This means that individual modules in the battery system can be replaced.
- ReManufacturing: This process includes the complete disassembly of the battery down to the individual cell level. After sorting, testing and replacing components, the battery system can be rebuilt.
- ReMat: This process includes material recycling and the recovery of valuable ingredients. Daimler AG has already set up a central processing center at the Mannheim location for the product recycling of high-voltage batteries.
“ReUse” plays a decisive role at Daimler, as can be seen from the founding of the wholly-owned subsidiary Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH. In the form of stationary energy storage, these show that the life cycle of a plug-in or electric vehicle battery does not have to end when the car is used. On the contrary, these can be reused for stationary battery storage. Small power losses play no role here. In the best case, the e-batteries can be used for at least ten more years if a stationary storage system is operated economically. By reusing the lithium-ion modules, their economic use can be more or less doubled.
The first 2nd-life battery storage system went online in October 2016 at REMONDIS’ headquarters in Lunen, Westphalia. The 13 megawatt hour project is a joint venture between the partners Daimler AG, The Mobility House AG and GETEC. Total 1.000 used battery systems from battery-electric smart vehicles of the second generation are bundled into a stationary storage unit and marketed on the German primary control energy market.
Battery systems that have not yet been used in electric cars but are kept as spare parts can also be used as energy storage systems. The best example of this is certainly around 3.000 of the battery modules available for the current electric smart vehicle fleet. These are bundled into a stationary storage facility as a “living spare parts store” near Hanover. The spare parts store serves to compensate for fluctuations in the German power grid and thus supports the energy transition. Completion of the entire system with a total storage capacity of 17.4 MWh is planned for 2018.
Another large-scale storage facility from electric vehicle battery modules went into operation at the end of June 2018 in Elverlingsen/South Westphalia. There, as a “living spare parts store” 1.920 battery modules for the third-generation electric smart in stock. With an installed capacity of 8.96 MW and an energy capacity of 9.8 MWh, these are available to the energy market as battery storage for the provision of primary control power, among other things.
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