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Sensitivity Analysis in the Life-Cycle Assessment of Electric vs. Combustion Engine Cars under Approximate Real-World Conditions

Department of Environmental Planning and Technology, Environment Campus, University of Applied Sciences Trier. PO Box 13 80, 55761 Birkenfeld, Germany
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Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1241; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031241
Received: 16 December 2019 / Revised: 26 January 2020 / Accepted: 3 February 2020 / Published: 9 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Engineering and Science)
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: BEV (battery electric vehicle); LCA; life cycle assessment; real-world driving; real-world life-cycle inventory; battery production; battery second use; battery size; break-even mileages; vehicle size effect; climate change impact; traffic modes; passenger kilometers travelled; diesel; electric bus BEV (battery electric vehicle); LCA; life cycle assessment; real-world driving; real-world life-cycle inventory; battery production; battery second use; battery size; break-even mileages; vehicle size effect; climate change impact; traffic modes; passenger kilometers travelled; diesel; electric bus
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Helmers, E.; Dietz, J.; Weiss, M. Sensitivity Analysis in the Life-Cycle Assessment of Electric vs. Combustion Engine Cars under Approximate Real-World Conditions. Sustainability 2020, 12, 1241.

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