Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) play a large role in the current discussion surrounding the energy transition to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The use of LIBs in diverse applications, such as electronics, e-mobility, or stationary storage systems, is expected to increase strongly. In the field of e-mobility, a strong increase in e-vehicles will lead to the availability of terawatt-hours of batteries that no longer meet the technical requirements for e-vehicles due to their wear and tear. When such first-life batteries (1stL-LIBs) are replaced, they can then be used in alternative applications (e.g. energy storage). Such second-use applications are gaining interest worldwide and play a decisive role with regard to the sustainability of LIBs. However, there is a decrease in performance during the first lifetime of LIBs, due to the fact that the 1stL-LIBs in e-vehicles are exposed to, for example, extreme operating temperatures, hundreds of partial cycles per year, as well as charging and discharging rates. Damage can cause LIBs to outgas, catch fire or even explode. This phenomenon is called thermal runaway. Little is currently known about the safety of second-use applications or the thermal runaway of 2ndL-LIBs.
In the SafeLiBatt project, safety guidelines for 1stL- and 2ndL-LIBs will be elaborated using integrative methods for risk management. In laboratory tests, the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) and the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (INERIS) are testing new and used LIBs (at cell level) for thermal runaway and analyzing the release of toxic gases and substances. One focus is placed on the different behavior of 1stL- and 2ndL-LIBs. The aim is to collect safety-relevant information to derive precautionary measures for first responders (fire brigade, rescue, police) in cases of emergencies. In addition, the Austrian project partners BOKU Vienna, the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) and Brimatech Services GmbH will conduct an integrated risk analysis. A life cycle analysis (LCA) will quantify the environmental benefits, with particular regard for the extension of battery life. In addition, primary data on emissions during thermal runaways obtained from the laboratory tests will be integrated into the LCA to assess potential impacts on human health and the environment. Furthermore, the economic and social impacts of LIBs will be investigated, especially concerning general acceptance, as well as perceived drivers, opportunities and barriers of second-use applications. For this purpose, literature research, qualitative interviews with stakeholders of the LIB value network, and workshops will be conducted. With the help of participatory procedures, various aspects surrounding the topics of occupational safety, safe-by-design, and design-for-reuse can also be discussed. Finally, recommendations for action for the safe development and use of 1stL- and 2ndL-LIBs will be derived from the project results. In addition, the project results will be introduced into international and national standardization committees to standardize safety guidelines.