Sensitivity analysis in the life-cycle assessment of electric vs. combustion engine cars under approximate real-world conditions

  • This study compares the environmental impacts of petrol, diesel, natural gas, and electric vehicles using a process-based attributional life cycle assessment (LCA) and the ReCiPe characterization method that captures 18 impact categories and the single score endpoints. Unlike common practice, we derive the cradle-to-grave inventories from an originally combustion engine VW Caddy that was disassembled and electrified in our laboratory, and its energy consumption was measured on the road. Ecoivent 2.2 and 3.0 emission inventories were contrasted exhibiting basically insignificant impact deviations. Ecoinvent 3.0 emission inventory for the diesel car was additionally updated with recent real-world close emission values and revealed strong increases over four midpoint impact categories, when matched with the standard Ecoinvent 3.0 emission inventory. Producing batteries with photovoltaic electricity instead of Chinese coal-based electricity decreases climate impacts of battery production by 69%. Break-even mileages for the electric VW Caddy to pass the combustion engine models under various conditions in terms of climate change impact ranged from 17,000 to 310,000 km. Break-even mileages, when contrasting the VW Caddy and a mini car (SMART), which was as well electrified, did not show systematic differences. Also, CO2-eq emissions in terms of passenger kilometers travelled (54–158 g CO2-eq/PKT) are fairly similar based on 1 person travelling in the mini car and 1.57 persons in the mid-sized car (VW Caddy). Additionally, under optimized conditions (battery production and use phase utilizing renewable electricity), the two electric cars can compete well in terms of CO2-eq emissions per passenger kilometer with other traffic modes (diesel bus, coach, trains) over lifetime. Only electric buses were found to have lower life cycle carbon emissions (27–52 g CO2-eq/PKT) than the two electric passenger cars.

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Author:Eckard Helmers, Johannes Dietz, Martin Weiss
Parent Title (English):Sustainability
Document Type:Article (specialist journals)
Date of OPUS upload:2022/08/31
Date of first Publication:2020/02/09
Publishing University:Hochschule Trier
Release Date:2022/09/05
Tag:BEV (battery electric vehicle); LCA; battery production; battery second use; battery size; break-even mileages; climate change impact; diesel; electric bus; life cycle assessment; passenger kilometers travelled; real-world driving; real-world life-cycle inventory; traffic modes; vehicle size effect
GND Keyword:Kraftwagen; Elektrofahrzeug; Elektromobilität; Umweltbilanz
Page Number:31
First Page:1
Last Page:31
Departments:FB Umweltplanung/-technik (UCB)
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 62 Ingenieurwissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International