Can Thermal Monitoring Reduce Your Carbon Emission Output?

Paul MilnerAugust 13, 2021

In the crusade toward decarbonization, EVs with lithium-ion batteries offer a huge opportunity for moving away from fossil fuels. These batteries offer the dual benefit of a high power-to-weight ratio and high energy efficiency, making them an ideal power source for electric vehicles. 

With EVs requiring such high processing power and fast charging times, battery temperature is a common concern and reason for accelerated degradation. High temperatures cause irreversible damage to batteries, ultimately affecting the battery’s state of health, performance and safety.

As we begin to rely on these batteries to decarbonize the transport sector and meet global CO2 emissions goals in the upcoming decades, it is imperative to implement thermal management systems. It has even been shown that by optimizing these systems, battery life cycle cost and carbon footprint can be reduced by 27% and 25%, respectively.

What is thermal management?

The lifecycle of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) relies heavily on stress factors like storing conditions, operating temperature and humidity levels. Unfavorable conditions can affect the battery’s performance, safety and capacity, and ultimately shorten its working lifetime due to chemical side reactions such as solid-electrolyte interface (SEI) and electrolyte decomposition. Along with temperatures that are too high, operating temperatures that are too low could negatively affect batteries as well, causing lithium plating and battery degradation. To avoid these ramifications, it has been found that the optimal operating temperature for LIBs ranges from 288 to 208 K. This is where thermal management becomes a key factor in battery upkeep.

There is a variety of thermal management systems available today, allowing manufacturers to choose their best option based on pricing, dimensioning and rate of heat removal. The two most common systems on the market for EV batteries today are air cooling and indirect liquid cooling.

Air cooling is the cheaper of the two options and is simpler to integrate into a battery pack. The strategy uses air flow to cool down battery cells, which is simple and inexpensive, but often cannot remove heat at a sufficient rate.

Indirect liquid cooling utilizes flow channels of a liquid coolant to remove heat much faster than the air-cooling method. It is often preferred because of its efficacy in cooling battery cells, but as it requires a complex arrangement of flow channels, it is inevitably more expensive to build.

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Decarbonizing the transport sector from fossil fuels takes time.

One of the most effective ways to lower the carbon footprint of a lithium-ion battery is by increasing the battery’s lifetime. It was found in a study that doubling a LIB’s lifetime results in a 23% decrease in overall carbon footprint. While other strategies did help to decrease carbon footprints as well, none were as effective as a lengthened lifecycle.

The benefits of increasing battery lifespan are twofold. Along with decreasing carbon footprint, which is already big win in making EVs even more sustainable, but overall costs also decreased by 33% with a doubled lifespan. This is especially noteworthy, as a major challenge in EV production and adoption is the high cost of lithium-ion batteries. In this case, a longer lifespan means lessened carbon intensity and lower acquisition cost, further encouraging customers to switch to EVs guilt-free.

All things considered; it is easy to see why efficient thermal management systems are crucial ultimately decarbonizing transport. Monitoring the conditions of these batteries not only optimizes their working lifespan but counteracts the environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions caused during production. When comparing management systems, it is important to note that the immersion cooling method resulted in the least amount of CO2 emissions over a battery’s lifetime, with air cooling resulting in the largest carbon footprint. It is up to each manufacturer, however, whether they are willing to pay greater upfront costs for more efficient, but complex, systems to benefit from an ultimately longer battery lifecycle.

Could battery thermal management be the key for EV success?

At the end of the day, the better we manage battery temperatures and delay aging and decay, the greater impact we can have on cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. While EV implementation is a current focus in decarbonizing the transport sector and meeting goals set by the Paris Agreement, a logical next step is making electrical vehicles as green as possible, from production to operation to deposal.

As the market demands for higher capacity battery packs and rapid charging, thermal management will become a key consideration in EV manufacturing. Though OEMs are currently more focused on reducing production costs for LIBs, it has been proven to have a far less significant impact when compared with the results of extending the battery’s lifecycle. For these reasons, thermal management shows great promise in optimizing LIB performance over a longer span of time. With a shift in focus to the aging processes in batteries and how to prevent performance and capacity fading, it is likely that thermal monitoring will play a significant role in decarbonizing transport and making electric vehicles as green as possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about de-carbonizing your fleet, or scaling for an electric vehicle implementation strategy, schedule a demo of the Utilimarc platform with a member of our analytics team.

Paul Milner

Senior Analyst

Paul Milner is a senior analyst at Utilimarc. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Working at Utilimarc for nearly ten years, he helps find the stories and solve problems within complex data sets. See more from Paul

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