Instagrid - impact - Frequently Asked Questions - Instagrid

Your burning questions answered

There are a lot of sticky questions floating around the topic of batteries and sustainability: Are they sustainable across the entire life cycle? Aren’t there many risks along the supply chain?

We have some myths to break – and some valid concerns that need special attention. Here are answers to some of the most frequent questions:

Do batteries have bigger emissions over lifetime than combustion engines?

Do batteries have bigger emissions over lifetime than combustion engines?

Together with our partners the Hessian State Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology, we’ve conducted a dedicated lifecycle analysis to get the full picture of the emissions associated with portable batteries, comparing the lifecycle emissions of the Instagrid ONE to those of combustion generators. Four lifecycle stages were considered: production, transportation, use, and end-of-life. The results show that portable batteries have a significantly lower product carbon footprint than generators. The analysis has been reviewed and certified by TÜV Nord Umweltgesellschaft mbH.

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Are the batteries thrown away after they've done their job?

Are the batteries thrown away after they've done their job?

As in the case of any other physical products, there are several options to choose from when a battery reaches its end-of-life, be it through wear or defect. The basic three options are: a) Extending the initial use-phase (re-use through repair/re-manufacturing) b) Repurposing (with batteries also called 2nd-life) c) Recycling The best option is to keep a product in its initial use phase as long as possible so that the duty time of each component is maximized. In a battery product, components are often joined by material-to-material connections (e.g. through welding), making the replacement of relevant parts and components often impossible. At Instagrid, we follow clear design rules (called “Sustainable Product Development Guidelines”) to provide the best possible design for re-use and recycling. With this, we make sure that material-to-material connections are avoided as much as possible, so that parts can be replaced in the smallest possible quantities. This enables any discarded component (i.e. scrap material) to be separated into pure materials which can be easily returned into a closed recycling loop. Most importantly, we have designed our battery in a modular way so that the components that contribute the largest portion to emissions (electronics and battery cells) can be replaced at fractions of the full battery system. Instead of replacing 100% of the battery, which is common for state-of-the-art products, we can replace as little as 5%, i.e., a malfunctioning battery module can be replaced while a large portion of the battery is kept on duty. This helps us to extend the usage of the majority of components, and thus maximize their positive impact.

Can a battery be properly recycled?

Can a battery be properly recycled?

We recognize that the recycling of lithium-ion batteries is still in its infancy, which could be considered normal given the early phase of a technology that was only widely adopted by the market in the early 2010s. The nature of a battery, being an agglomerate of various active and passive materials, makes its separation and return back to a closed cycle even more challenging. However, since batteries include metals such as Cobalt, Nickel or Lithium, a full recovery of these materials is key to making electrification through batteries a viable route to a more sustainable future. As a first step, we have done two things: 1. Often, customers don’t know where to turn to when the batteries are defect. We partner with national take-back schemes in any country we serve to allow our customers to deposit worn-out or defect batteries for proper recycling. Interested to know which take back scheme is located in your country? Feel free to message us (sustainability@instagrid.co). 2. To assess the recycling potential of our portable batteries, we have conducted a dismantling and recycling study with an external partner. This helped us to understand which technology is needed to recycle specific components, and which components are critical and subject to disposal. We use this feedback a basis to further increase the circularity of our product. We’ve also started to investigate dedicated recycling options for the battery cells we use. Today, commercial recycling is mostly limited to physical pre-treatment, followed by a pyrometallurgic process that only recovers a small fraction of the materials. However, we see strong motion in this field given the exponentially increasing amount of GWhs via batteries that are put to the field every year. In 2023, we are developing a strategic approach to our products’ end-of-life treatment.

How about responsible sourcing?

How about responsible sourcing?

Responsible sourcing can only be obtained with supply chain transparency. We carefully select our suppliers (and request them to do so with their sub-suppliers) according to our self-set sustainability guidelines consisting of environmental and social requirements. In addition, we foster a culture of transparency and open collaboration. With this, we create opportunities for mutual learning, transparent communication and building trusting and long-lasting relationships. While obtaining full transparency is not an easy task for a young company, we have put together a strong team to start mapping our entire supply chain from cradle-to-cradle so we that can flag and remove inconsistencies. We are firm believers in local-for-local sourcing strategies and have placed the largest part of our supply chain in Europe.

How about the working conditions along the supply chain?

How about the working conditions along the supply chain?

We are aware that long supply chains that involve critical materials can cause human rights violations. We seek to avoid, prevent, mitigate and end these negative impacts where possible. As a young company, we have started with building trustful relationships with our direct suppliers and working together with them and their sub-suppliers to have a positive impact deeper down the supply chain. In 2023, we’ll set up a grievance mechanism which can be accessed by suppliers and employees. Like with the environmental aspects explained above, we will map our supply chain step-by-step to understand potential risks and impacts in the social context.

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