Green two-wheeled mobility : Material Hygiene and life cycle analysis of anelectric scooter

University essay from KTH/Maskinkonstruktion (Inst.)


In the last years electric vehicles gained importance as a more sustainable alternative to traditional vehicles. The introduction of an electric powertrain leads to lower air-pollution emissions but it also involves the introduction of new materials in the product life cycle, e. g., the rare earths and lithium contained in the motor and in the batteries. Those materials have an environmental impact and they need to be disposed properly.

The aim of this thesis is to have a quantitative knowledge of the environmental balance linked to the use of a different powertrain. Furthermore, this study explores how this balance can be modified improving the recycling and the end of life management.

Specifically in this thesis, an average electric scooter has been chosen as a case study. The electric scooter is used as object of comparison with a traditional internal-combustion-engine scooter. The choice of a two-wheeled mean of transport is linked to the low level of facilities involved.

This report first includes a definition of the case of study; this section also presents a description of the technologies taken into exam. It is also presented the result of interviews with dismantlers to depict the current process of EoL management of a scooter.

The central part of thesis deals with different recycling scenarios. With the help of the Material Hygiene mind-set, a qualitative analysis and different recycling scenarios are proposed. The recycling scenarios involve the component of the electric powertrain that are peculiar of the electric vehicle. They mainly are the electric motor and the lithium battery pack.

The last part of the analysis encompasses a Life Cycle Assessment of an average electric scooter to give a quantitative meaning to the life cycle comparison and to assess the environmental benefits of the proposed recycling scenarios.

To perform the Life Cycle Assessment a software, SimaPro 7.3, is used. This software lets the user insert the bill of materials of the product and it associates to each material its environmental loads according to the database EcoInvent v.2.2.

Keywords: electric scooter, lithium battery, permanent magnet, neodymium, Material Hygiene, Design for Disassembly, Life Cycle Assessment, LCA

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