Electric Vehicle Batteries: The Next Sustainability Crisis?

Finboot Team
July 28, 2022

Using blockchain to achieve a sustainable battery supply chain 

The electric vehicle (EV) has arrived. With it comes a vast opportunity, but also a major challenge: how to build an ethical and sustainable supply chain. With the number of used electric vehicle batteries set to grow exponentially, we must take action now to ensure circular life cycle management. Monitoring and tracing workflows tools on the blockchain are emerging as a sustainable solution. 

Car manufacturers – and governments – have set their sights on the end of fossil fuel mobility and are working towards better battery life cycle management. Electric vehicle manufacturers have acknowledged the need to map lithium-ion batteries, so they can be reused for energy storage or recycled for metals recovery. 

The global stockpile of used lithium-ion (Li-Ion) electric vehicle batteries is expected to grow exponentially, from around 14 GWh, or 102,000 tonnes in 2020 to more than 7.8 million tonnes per year globally by 2040

Blockchain technology could enable the transport and power sectors to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030, on track to meet the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement. According to the World Economic Forum, the battery revolution could create 10 million jobs, add $150 billion to the global economy and provide electricity to 600 million people for the first time. 

Some market forecasts expect that by 2040, more than half of all auto sales will be electric: an incredible level of penetration from just 1 per cent in 2017. 

By 2040, 33 percent of the global car fleet will be electric (Source: Bloomberg)

Securing a sustainable supply through blockchain 

In the face of climate change and rising consumer expectations around sustainable resource management, the pressure is growing to show meaningful change. 

When batteries are sourced, manufactured and recycled responsibly, they will fuel sustainable development. Finboot helps clients and partners to achieve traceability through Track & Trace and maximize the life cycle value of products such as portable electronics and EV batteries. Our tracking solution drives transparency along clients’ supply chains to enable traceability in a secure platform. 

The battery value chain provides a fascinating test case for the supportive environment needed in a circular economy. Rapidly falling technology costs are creating major opportunities to reduce waste. 

Tracking cobalt presents many challenges, as scores of informal mine sites would have to be monitored, every player in the supply chain would need to buy into the scheme, and accurate, electronic data would need to be transmitted from remote areas. 

With lithium it has been a different story. Here miners are looking for development capital and are therefore more open to deals. In attracting potential investment, proactive use of blockchain has the potential to benefit these miners through demonstrating compliance with best practice from a sustainability and environmental perspective. Blockchain allows for the permanent and immutable transparent recording of data, enabling a precise audit process. The raw materials are given a digital fingerprint that is then tracked, enabling mapping in terms of sustainability, environmental and ethical compliance. 

Use of blockchain for an improved ethical and sustainable supply chain - an example 

Back in 2020, Diamond giant De Beers successfully launched a pilot to train and equip artisanal diamond miners in Sierra Leone before authenticating and buying their production. The test allowed for artisanal miners to have a route to market that will offer them better prices, while De Beers gained additional supply and consumers can have the confidence that the product they are buying is free from many of the negative connotations of small-scale mining. 

Last May, De Beers announced it had successfully tracked its first diamonds from mine to store using blockchain technology. Providing consumers with confidence that registered diamonds are natural and conflict free, improve visibility and trust within the industry and enhance efficiencies across the entire diamond value chain.

How blockchain works in the diamond industry (Source: Tech Guru) 

1. Keep a record of high-resolution photos of each diamond at every touchpoint along its journey. 

2. Track real-time records of every payment transaction. 

3. Maintain product details like cut, clarity, color, carat, and diamond serial numbers. 4. Hold certificates of authenticity. 

To combat the growing need, Finboot has developed this battery traceability platform, or ‘battery passport’, for the industry. 

Secured by blockchain technology, Track & Trace allows EV manufacturers to track and report the lifetime journey of each battery, demonstrating its sustainable management from first use to repurposing and, eventually, responsible recycling. 

Future or present problem? 

The danger of end-of-life batteries being downcycled and then disposed of in landfill, is not only unsustainable but also highly unsafe. 

The long-term ambition is to create a regulated market whereby raw materials are recycled or whole units repurposed into energy storage batteries. 

Government support and regulation will prove crucial in creating a new circular economy for large batteries. In Europe, the European Commission has taken future-focused measures to regulate the expected 14-fold growth in EV and portable batteries over the next decade, as part of its European Green Deal to achieve climate neutrality and zero pollution targets by 2050. Their Circular Economy Action Plan will standardize the battery industry to ensure that all products placed on the EU market become sustainable along their entire life cycle. 

Finboot’s Track & Trace 

The Track & Trace tool provides reliable information and data on every life stage of the battery. The digital tool is expected to track the management of social and environmental risks in an EV battery’s life and producers should prepare for it now. Track & Trace is a solution for companies to prepare for the future requirements of legislators and consumers.