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They make the claim the giant lithium battery grid is “cleaner” than the “dirty” natural gas “peak power” plants.

I’m curious, what’s the environmental damage of this overall? These battery packs likely degrade, lithium has to be mined, etc. Natural gas also has a cost to mine, to burn (though if I recall, the off gases are co2 and water vapor, lower levels of NO2, etc)

Looking from the outside it looks like both options honestly may pollute or have the same environmental impact long-term. One is just a cost we don’t see immediately (or is don’t me in another country)




> Looking from the outside it looks like both options honestly may pollute or have the same environmental impact long-term.

Not sure how you come to that conclusion. Lithium is not a fuel that is consumed in the process. It is a recyclable component. And there is no dangerous imbalance in the global lithium cycle. Which can't be said about the carbon cycle.

Just because every technology entails some environmental impact does not not mean all impacts are the same.


>It is a recyclable component.

In theory, batteries are not currently recycled in any scale equivalent to these proposals. Plastic is also recyclable but most of it ends up in landfills due to it being uneconomical.


We also tend to put plastic into contact with food and small packaging, create many different types and form factors, and ship it consumers. I imagine the recycling problem for a known environment (e.g. a power facility's used batteries) vs an unknown environment (e.g. consumer houses) is significantly different.

I do wonder (and a quick google search didn't turn much up) how the rates of industrial plastic recycling compare with consumer rates.


Time will tell. Right now no industrial-scale deployments have reached EoL, so it's not surprising that there's little recycling. Plus those things also contain cobalt, which is significantly more expensive, plastic doesn't have that incentive.


No cobalt in the new dry battery tech they got from the Maxwell acquisition.

I hope Tesla has a plan for recycling the batteries they manufacture


Tesla is already recycling batteries at Gigafactory 1.

https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1122631_tesla-launches-...


Lead acid batteries, a mature battery technology, have a 99% recycling rate in the USA [1] (and similar rates in other developed economies).

[1] https://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/battery-council-inter...


>batteries are not currently recycled in any scale equivalent to these proposals

They're already recycled at >50% https://www.pv-magazine.com/2019/07/12/lithium-ion-recycling... although there's still no need to recycle them in volume (since we are only starting to deploy Li-Ion batteries for EV and stationary storage, which last for more than a decade)


> [Lithium] is a recyclable component.

But lithium is only 5%* of the value of a battery, so it's the other 95% of the impact of battery production that matters.

* the market for mined lithium raw material may be worth $20 billion, compared with $43 billion for refined products and $424 billion for battery cells - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-28/the-lithi...


> And there is no dangerous imbalance in the global lithium cycle

Interesting, I had never thought of a "global lithium cycle" before – can you elaborate?


That was facetious to contrast a rather important thing to something of little significance. Some processes must obviously enrich lithium over geological timescales, otherwise we couldn't mine it, but to my knowledge it's not important to the biosphere as a whole.


Pretty sure they’re not assuming they are the same, but are curious to know how similar they actually are.

In other words, does Tesla saying they’re the better option than gas make it so?


Once you have mined the material to use in the battery it can (and will) be recycled into making new batteries (or other uses). It is essentially mine once.

Natural gas is extracted and then burnt. Because it is consumed it requires continual extraction, i.e. endless mining.

Furthermore, batteries are of course energy storage, while natural gas is generation. If you couple batteries with renewable energy generation (solar, wind, etc) you no longer require the use of an extractive fuel, nor do you incur combustion pollution costs. This has to be where we end up because it is the only sustainable way for us to operate. Better we get there sooner rather than later.


There are tiny amounts of lithium in the batteries and we have tons of lithium on the planet. The real environmental / human rights issue is around cobalt and they're allegedly close to completely removing cobalt from their battery chemistry.


1kWh of li-ion batteries has a carbon footprint of around 110kg CO2[0].

Tesla batteries put in cars are estimated to last 800-1000 cycles to 80% capacity[1].

Given these figures batteries add around 138g/kWh of CO2 on top of whatever source was used to charge them(say wind at 14g/kWh).

Meanwhile natural gas plants emit around 550g/kWh. The battery would have to last less than 250 cycles to match that.

[0] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S136403211...

[1] https://electrek.co/2018/04/14/tesla-battery-degradation-dat...


Why are you assuming that 80% batteries are discarded?


You are forgetting the methane emissions from leakage: https://theconversation.com/the-us-natural-gas-industry-is-l...


It also depends on how much you value CO2 emission reductions to the non-global-warming environmental damage (e.g. toxic chemical leakage) caused by battery production and decay.


Natural gas is methane. The pumping and transport of methane involves leakage. Methane is 30x worse than CO2 in terms of heat trapping.




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