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Can BESS help solve Scope 3 emissions for vehicle manufacturers?

Vehicle manufacturers are facing a big question when it comes to reporting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – what happens to the batteries from an end-of-life electric vehicle?

12/10/2023

OEMs have to report on their emissions, and that includes how their products are disposed of at end of life. Organisations must demonstrate that calculating emissions from these processes is done accurately and based on data – companies must outline the methodologies and assumptions used to calculate emissions.

In this article, we explain how an EV’s end-of-life is covered by new emissions reporting standards, why it is the responsibility of automotive OEMs, and how second-life battery energy storage systems (BESS) can help.

What are Scope 3 emissions?

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is an international standard for reporting GHG emissions. It defines emissions in three categories:

Scope 1 - direct emissions.

These are emissions from sources owned or directly controlled by an organisation. For example, burning gas to heat your buildings or consuming fuel to power vehicles.

Scope 2 – indirect emissions.

These are emissions that are generated by third parties on behalf of an organisation. A good example would be the greenhouse gases from generating the electricity used to power your facilities.

Scope 3 – emissions that are not related to the organisation’s activities, but for which it is still responsible.

For manufacturers, this includes how their products are disposed of at end of life, even though the OEM no longer owns those products.

Does Scope 3 include EV batteries?

Scope 3 is broken down into categories and Category 12 very clearly covers emissions from the waste disposal and treatment of products sold by the reporting company, in the reporting year, at the end of life.

The GHG Protocol outlines that companies should collect data on the methods of waste treatment and proportions, meaning what percentage goes to landfill, what is recycled, and so forth.

What does this mean for automotive manufacturers?

Auto OEMs are already pretty good at recycling petrol and diesel cars. The End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive mandates that 95% of a car by weight has to be reused or recycled. In Europe, this is expected to go further, with additional requirements proposed by the European Commission to make vehicles even more sustainable.

However, lithium battery recycling remains in its infancy. According to the BBC, only around 5% of Li-Ion batteries are recycled at present and the industry does not yet have the capacity to deal with the huge volumes coming downstream from EVs.

On top of that, lithium battery recycling is currently more expensive than mining the mineral, meaning there is not much market demand for recycled lithium as it adds more cost to EVs. Last but not least, the two main methods of lithium battery recycling are smelting and using acids – neither is very environmentally friendly.

How can battery energy storage systems help reduce Scope 3 emissions?

As the name suggests, second-life BESS take batteries from end-of-life EVs and repurposes them in stationary storage applications. EV batteries can still have up to 80% of their original energy storage capabilities at the vehicle’s end of life, meaning they can still be extremely useful if deployed correctly.

Companies like Connected Energy give these batteries a second life in BESS used to store surplus renewable energy from rooftop solar arrays, or even to support and enable EV charging hubs. In this way, a second-life BESS significantly extends the working life of the batteries – in many cases they can work for another 10 years or more before needing to be recycled.

Can a second-life BESS have any impact on other emissions?

There are added benefits for the buyers and users of second-life BESS in terms of reporting their own emissions. Firstly, based on real-world data from existing operational systems, we know that one of our 300kW E-STOR systems provides a positive benefit of 150 tonnes of CO2e compared to a BESS made using brand-new batteries.

In addition, a 300kW BESS can save the use of 100 MWh of grid electricity which at present is the equivalent of 18 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. Both of these factors help reduce an organisation’s Scope 2 emissions.

This means that vehicle manufacturers and other OEMs producing battery-powered machinery should engage with second-life BESS as a solution that not only reduces their emissions, but can help reduce emissions for their customers, too.

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