Using monte carlo simulation in life cycle assessment for electric and internal combustion vehicles

LCA Case Studies


1 Background

The U.S. Government has encouraged shifting from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) to alternatively fueled vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs) for three primary reasons: reducing oil dependence, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing Clean Air Act criteria pollutant emissions. In comparing these vehicles, there is uncertainty and variability in emission factors and performance variables, which cause wide variation in reported outputs.

2 Objectives

A model was developed to demonstrate the use of Monte Carlo simulation to predict life cycle emissions and energy consumption differences between the ICEV versus the EV on a per kilometer (km) traveled basis. Three EV technologies are considered: lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, and nickel metal hydride batteries.

3 Methods

Variables were identified to build life cycle inventories between the EVs and ICEV. Distributions were selected for each of the variables and input to Monte Carlo Simulation soft-ware called Crystal Ball 2000®.

4 Results and Discussion

All three EV options reduce U.S. oil dependence by shifting to domestic coal. The life cycle energy consumption per kilometer (km) driven for the EVs is comparable to the ICEV; however, there is wide variation in predicted energy values. The model predicts that all three EV technologies will likely increase oxides of sulfur and nitrogen as well as particulate matter emissions on a per km driven basis. The model shows a high probability that volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide emissions are reduced with the use of EVs. Lead emissions are also predicted to increase for lead-acid battery EVs. The EV will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially and may even increase them based on the current U.S. reliance on coal for electricity generation. The EV may benefit public health by relocating air pollutants from urban centers, where traffic is concentrated, to rural areas where electricity generation and mining generally occur. The use of Monte Carlo simulation in life cycle analysis is demonstrated to be an effective tool to provide further insight on the likelihood of emission outputs and energy consumption.


Battery Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) criteria pollutants electric vehicle energy life cycle assessment (LCA) life cycle inventory (LCI) lifecycle Monte Carlo, probabilistic 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force BaseUSA

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