Nanotechnology for environmentally sustainable electromobility

Journal name:
Nature Nanotechnology
Year published:
Published online
Corrected online


Electric vehicles (EVs) powered by lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) or proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cells (PEMFCs) offer important potential climate change mitigation effects when combined with clean energy sources. The development of novel nanomaterials may bring about the next wave of technical improvements for LIBs and PEMFCs. If the next generation of EVs is to lead to not only reduced emissions during use but also environmentally sustainable production chains, the research on nanomaterials for LIBs and PEMFCs should be guided by a life-cycle perspective. In this Analysis, we describe an environmental life-cycle screening framework tailored to assess nanomaterials for electromobility. By applying this framework, we offer an early evaluation of the most promising nanomaterials for LIBs and PEMFCs and their potential contributions to the environmental sustainability of EV life cycles. Potential environmental trade-offs and gaps in nanomaterials research are identified to provide guidance for future nanomaterial developments for electromobility.

At a glance


  1. Early life-cycle environmental screening of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cells for electric vehicles.
    Figure 1: Early life-cycle environmental screening of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cells for electric vehicles.

    Solid lines denote intrinsic aspects of the material itself. Dotted lines denote properties that are attributes of the value-chain aspects or embodied activities related to the material's production. Red lines denote production aspects, black lines use-phase aspects and the blue line end-of-life aspects.

  2. Anode materials for lithium-ion batteries.
    Figure 2: Anode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

    Nanoarchitectured materials are given by a circle. Background colours reflect characteristics of bulk materials. Green denotes relative strength, red relative weakness, yellow intermediate characteristics and white no data. Absence of circle indicates no data for the nanomaterial. The grey background denotes the 'baseline' material. LTO, lithium titanium oxide. See Supplementary Information for the sources of the data in this figure.

  3. Cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.
    Figure 3: Cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

    Circles and colour coding are as defined in Fig. 2. NCA, lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide; NMC, lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide; LCO, lithium cobalt oxide; LMR, lithium/manganese rich transition metal oxide; LFP, lithium iron phosphate; LVP, lithium vanadyl phosphate; LMO, lithium manganese oxide. See Supplementary Information for the sources of the data in this figure.

  4. Cathode catalyst materials for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.
    Figure 4: Cathode catalyst materials for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.

    Circles and colour coding are as defined in Fig. 2. PGM, platinum group metals; *, material on non-carbon black support. See Supplementary Information for the sources of the data in this figure.

  5. Catalyst support materials for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.
    Figure 5: Catalyst support materials for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.

    Circles and colour coding are as defined in Fig. 2. See Supplementary Information for the sources of the data in this figure.

Change history

Corrected online 14 December 2016
In the original version of this Analysis Christine Roxanne Hung should have been acknowledged as a corresponding author. This has been corrected in the online versions of the Analysis.


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  1. Industrial Ecology Programme and Department of Energy and Process Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Sem Sælands vei 7, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway

    • Linda Ager-Wick Ellingsen,
    • Christine Roxanne Hung,
    • Guillaume Majeau-Bettez,
    • Bhawna Singh &
    • Anders Hammer Strømman
  2. CIRAIG, École Polytechnique de Montréal, 3333 chemin Queen-Mary, Bureau 310, CP 6079 succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3A7, Canada

    • Guillaume Majeau-Bettez
  3. Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, E6-2006, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada

    • Zhongwei Chen
  4. NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage, Binghamton University, 4400 Vestal Parkway East, Binghamton, New York 13902, USA

    • M. Stanley Whittingham

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