A comparative assessment of value chain criticality of lithium-ion battery cells
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
As the global transport sector ramps up the transition towards electromobility, the value chain of raw materials for lithium-ion battery (LIB) development is becoming crucial. Assessing the criticality of material value chains identifies potential supply risks within these value chains and can better inform battery technology development. This study uses the ESSENZ method to systematically assess eleven (11) criticality aspects of ten (10) LIB cells. The criticality scores of the LIB cells are evaluated by aggregating the criticality scores of eleven (11) constituent value chains. These criticality scores are further complemented by twelve (12) environmental midpoint impacts performed using life cycle assessments. For the value chains, cobalt dominates the criticality scores in political stability, mining capacity, trade barriers, the feasibility of exploration projects, and the occurrence of co-production. Lithium dominates the criticality scores in demand growth, concentration of reserves, concentration of production, and primary material used. Nickel dominates the criticality scores in price volatility, while natural graphite dominates the criticality scores in company concentration. We further explain in our results the reasons driving the criticalities in the value chains. For the comparative LIB cell assessment, we developed a quadrant matrix chart depicting the relative performance of the LIB cells based on their aggregated elemental criticality and environmental impact scores. This analysis identifies LIB cells with low value chain criticality and environmental scores and those that need improvements on either the criticality or the environmental impact scores. We propose a series of measures, such as the transition towards cobalt-free batteries, material efficiency improvements, and end-of-life recycling to alleviate the criticality and environmental impacts associated with these LIB cells. This research emphasizes the need to include all sustainability dimensions for comprehensive and holistic insights to positively shape the course of action towards sustainable LIB production systems.