Lithium-ion battery pack for 2011 Chevrolet Volt
Steven Cherry: Dominic, we have a saying here that something is like comparing apples to oranges. Did you find that to be the case when it came to comparing environmental impacts? What I mean is, the toxicity of the metal in a battery is one kind of environmental impact, and it's very different from that of shipping a battery across the Atlantic Ocean. How do you total up environmental impacts and then compare them one to another?
Dominic Notter: We used four different impact-assessment methods. One was the global warming potential, which tells us something about climate change. One was the cumulative energy demand for the battery, and then we had one which included human toxicity, resource depletion, and quality of eco systems. And no matter which of these impact assessment methods you are looking for, the main result remains the same. The battery electric car is, let's say, greener than the internal combustion engine car. Regarding environmental burden, internal combustion engine cars should not use more than 59 to 70 miles per gallon.
Steven Cherry: That would be less actually, right?
Dominic Notter: Yes, less, sorry. Of course.
Steven Cherry: it's very confusing, actually because the Europeans measure things in liters per 100 kilometers, and that's almost the reciprocal of how we look at things here.
Dominic Notter: Yes, exactly.
Steven Cherry: Well, that's good to know. Either we should make cars that are either about twice as efficient as we're making them right now, or we should switch over to battery cars.
Dominic Notter: Yes, that would be a nice idea.
Steven Cherry: Well, thank you very much for your time.
Dominic Notter: You're welcome.
Steven Cherry: We've been speaking with Dominic Notter of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology about the environmental impact of making, using, and disposing electric car batteries. For IEEE Spectrum's "This Week in Technology," I'm Steven Cherry.
This story, written by Steven Cherry, was originally posted on IEEE Spectrum, an editorial partner of GreenCarReports.