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Nanotechnology for environmentally sustainable electromobility

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 10 January 2017

This article has been updated


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.

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Figure 1: Early life-cycle environmental screening of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cells for electric vehicles.
Figure 2: Anode materials for lithium-ion batteries.
Figure 3: Cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.
Figure 4: Cathode catalyst materials for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.
Figure 5: Catalyst support materials for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.

Change history

  • 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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The authors thank D. U. Lee and H. Zarrin for internal review and discussions. We also thank C. Bangs, D. Rickert, M. Quix, C. Stuyck, R. Weyhe and Q. Pan for communication on recycling of PEMFCs and LIBs. We also thank B. Reck and X. Hu for discussions. This work was financed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Research Council of Norway through the Centre for Sustainable Energy Studies (grant 209697), and the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant 646286). The authors remain solely responsible for the content of this article.

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Correspondence to Linda Ager-Wick Ellingsen or Christine Roxanne Hung.

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Ellingsen, LW., Hung, C., Majeau-Bettez, G. et al. Nanotechnology for environmentally sustainable electromobility. Nature Nanotech 11, 1039–1051 (2016).

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