Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sustainable services applied to industrial materials: student research opportunity

Sustainable services:” Famous examples include Interface’s carpet tiles, which are rented instead of sold, allowing the firm incentive to design-for-environment upfront, monitor and manage during use, and retain ownership for maximum recycling at the end-of-life (Hawkin, Lovins, Lovins, 2000, pp 139-141)

In what other industries might sustainable services make sense in? – Automotive perhaps? 

Our engineering, business and sustainability project is looking at electric vehicle (EV) batteries. High value materials like including cobalt, copper and electronics go into lithium ion battery packs. Their initial cost is the greatest barrier to further propagation of EV’s. Yet the operation of electric mobility systems is cheaper than those based conventional fossil fuels. At the end-of-life, significant value is retained: battery packs still have 80% of their power and capacity for use in “cascaded” second-uses. And batteries could be valuably recycled into next generation higher efficiency products.

A new research project proposes to explore:
  •         Different business models for material leasing, or sustainable service delivery
  •         Scenarios and models for EV battery systems, including technical factors like battery state-of-health, remanufacturing and targeted applications for repurposed packs.
  •         Business factors that would drive costs and revenue, whether batteries are sold, rented, leased or if their service is sold
  •         Potential siting and conceptual design of a cascaded battery pack system: locations in southern Ontario, facility set-up, business model, marketability, etc.

Academic inquiry will include areas of:
  •         Industrial ecology
  •        Life cycle assessment
  •         Material efficiency

Interested domestic students at the Masters or PhD level please enquire. Potential programs of study include Engineering or Sustainability Management at University of Waterloo. Limited funding may be available.

Paul Hawkin, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins (2000). Natural Capitalism, Little, Brown and Company Publishers (Boston, New York, London) pp 139-141.