Battery Passports: A Way to Report on Sustainability

Laurance Yap
February 24, 2023
One of the main reasons people buy electric cars is sustainability. A new proof of concept called a battery passport creates a framework for reporting on the sourcing and sustainability of materials and components in EV batteries - helping consumers make more informed decisions.
close up picture of EV battery.

Shining a Light on EV Batteries

As electric cars start to take a greater share of the vehicle market, a spotlight is now shining on their batteries – in particular where their components and minerals are sourced. Batteries are the largest, most expensive, and often the most complex components of an electric vehicle, but not all of them are manufactured as sustainably as others. Buyers of electric cars, though, want sustainable solutions – one of the main reasons they want to purchase an EV at all is to reduce their carbon footprint.

Is it even possible to track how a battery is manufactured, where its materials are sourced from, and if they’re made sustainably? The Global Battery Alliance, a multi-stakeholder organization committed to establishing a sustainable battery value chain by 2030, thinks it may have a solution. It’s called a “battery passport,” and a proof of concept was shown at the recent World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Woman charging her EV and checking her phone.

Battery Passport Proof of Concept

What’s a battery passport? In essence, it’s a digital twin of a physical battery that details information about sustainability. It includes reporting of the battery’s carbon footprint, technical specifications, and material sources. The battery passport also reports against key sustainability performance indicators, and even has indicators for human rights performance at steps in the production chain. The ultimate goal is to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions when purchasing an electric car – and drive sustainable sourcing, processing and manufacturing practices in the future.

Like a real passport, the battery passport has a comprehensive definition of a sustainable battery, which is founded on key data points. It creates a consistent understanding of the global battery value chain, and sets standards for collecting, exchanging, and reporting data. That includes material sources, the battery’s chemical make-up, its manufacturing history and its sustainability performance. The reporting rules were created by stakeholders from industry, academia, non-governmental organizations and governments from around the world.

Being a new concept, battery passports are far from complete in terms of the data they are collecting. It will take years to get all of the countries, companies, and individuals involved in the manufacturing of electric car batteries on the same page with consistent reporting.

Hands holding and scrolling on a tablet.

Battery Passport Samples from Audi and Tesla

However, at the Davos meeting, the Global Battery Alliance did show proof-of-concept battery passports, from Tesla and from Audi. They show the manufacturer of the battery and its manufacturing location; the date of manufacture; technical information about the battery; where the raw materials came from; performance versus industry benchmarks; and how many of the battery’s components and materials can actually be traced to their source.

The next steps in bringing the battery passport to life include developing a streamlined framework for reporting. The members of the Global Battery Alliance are also working jointly on developing rules for performance scoring, data governance, verification, and IT security rules. Once completed, the framework will allow batteries to be benchmarked against the GBA’s definition of a sustainable and responsible battery – and identify those that are best and worst in class. Over time, the GBA will also be able to track the progress of individual manufacturers and progress in the industry – the increased level of transparency hopefully making the battery industry cleaner and more sustainable in the future.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the Global Battery Alliance can get more manufacturers and battery makers to participate in its reporting. In the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing what a battery passport could look like, the proof-of-concept passports for Tesla and Audi are available for viewing.

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