Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 625–636 | Cite as

The effect of lightweighting on greenhouse gas emissions and life cycle energy for automotive composite parts

  • Masoud AkhshikEmail author
  • Suhara Panthapulakkal
  • Jimi Tjong
  • Mohini Sain
Original Paper


Lightweighting is considered as one of the solutions for reducing transportation emissions. Automobile manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers are seeking novel ways to meet this objective. One of the options for emission reduction would be the use of natural and/or recycled fiber-reinforced composites as these materials are lighter and have low energy demand compared to the currently being used materials. In this study, we tried to examine the impact of the use of hybrid bio-based composites as an alternative to the current materials. Four different under-the-hood parts (battery tray, engine beauty shield, cam cover, and oil pan) were manufactured using hybrid bio-based (carbon/cellulose fiber) composites and compared their environmental emission in terms of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission as well as the cumulative energy demand. The GHG was calculated in accordance with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment Report, whereas cumulative energy demand was calculated based on the International Organization for Standardization life cycle assessment method. The results of this study indicated a noticeable GHG and energy savings and a promising future for these types of hybrid materials.

Graphical abstract


Recycled carbon fiber ISO-LCA-based greenhouse emissions Cumulative energy demand Biocomposite Lightweighting 



The authors would like to acknowledge financial support from NSERC-Automotive Partnership Canada Program (APCPJ 433821 – 12); MITACS Accelerate Program (IT04834) and ONTARIO RESEARCH FUND – RESEARCH EXCELLENCE (ORFRE07-041). We would like to thank Ford Motor Company of Canada for providing the in-kind support for this project, and the authors also want to thank Dr. Birat KC and Dr. Omar Faruk and McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada, Ltd. for their kind supports and guidance and their valuable inputs. We also express our deep gratitude for the industry insiders who helped us with the primary data collection and the survey and want their name to remain unknown.


  1. Akhshik M, Panthapulakkal S, Tjong J, Sain M (2017) Life cycle assessment and cost analysis of hybrid fiber-reinforced engine beauty cover in comparison with glass fiber-reinforced counterpart. Environ Impact Assess Rev 65:111–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Oqla FM, Sapuan SM, Ishak MR, Nuraini AA (2015) Predicting the potential of agro waste fibers for sustainable automotive industry using a decision making model. Comput Electron Agric 113:116–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al-Salem SM, Evangelisti S, Lettieri P (2014) Life cycle assessment of alternative technologies for municipal solid waste and plastic solid waste management in the Greater London area. Chem Eng J 244:391–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alves C, Ferrão PMC, Silva AJ, Reis LG, Freitas M, Rodrigues LB, Alves DE (2010) Ecodesign of automotive components making use of natural jute fiber composites. J Clean Prod 18(4):313–327. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balaji A, Karthikeyan B, Sundar Raj C (2015) Bagasse fiber—the future biocomposite material: a review. Int J ChemTech Res 7(1):223–233Google Scholar
  6. Bare J, Young D, Qam S, Hopton M, Chief S (2012) Tool for the reduction and assessment of chemical and other environmental impacts (TRACI). US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  7. Batouli SM, Zhu Y, Nar M, D’Souza NA (2014) Environmental performance of kenaf-fiber reinforced polyurethane: a life cycle assessment approach. J Clean Prod 66:164–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bogner JE, Spokas KA, Burton EA (1999) Temporal variations in greenhouse gas emissions at a midlatitude landfill. J Environ Qual 28(1):278–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boland C, Dekleine R, Moorthy A, Keoleian G, Kim HC, Lee E, Wallington TJ (2014) A life cycle assessment of natural fiber reinforced composites in automotive applications. SAE technical paper 2014-01-1959Google Scholar
  10. Boland CS, De Kleine R, Keoleian GA, Lee EC, Kim HC, Wallington TJ (2015) Life cycle impacts of natural fiber composites for automotive applications: effects of renewable energy content and lightweighting. J Ind Ecol 20(1):179–189. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carlson E, Nelson K (1996) Nylon under the hood: a history of innovation. SAE Automot Eng 104:84–89Google Scholar
  12. CELA (2011) Canadian environmental law association. Improving the management of end-of-life vehicles in Canada. CELA Publication, 784Google Scholar
  13. CSA (2014) SPE-14040-14-life cycle assessment of auto parts—guidelines and requirements for conducting LCA of auto parts incorporating weight changes due to material composition, manufacturing technology, or part geometryGoogle Scholar
  14. Das S (2010) Recycling and life cycle issues for lightweight vehicles. In: Materials, design and manufacturing for lightweight vehicle. Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge, pp 309–331.Google Scholar
  15. Das S (2011) Life cycle assessment of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer composites. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16(3):268–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. EPA (2014) Retrieved January 17, 2019, from
  17. EPA (2018) Fast facts, US Transportation sector greenhouse gas emission 1990–2016. Retrieved January 18, 2019, from
  18. EU (2014) EU vote on cars CO2: 95 g/km in 2020, 68-78 g/km in 2025. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from
  19. European Commission (2016) Reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars—European Commission. EC Climate PolicyGoogle Scholar
  20. Joshi S, Drzal L, Mohanty A, Arora S (2004) Are natural fiber composites environmentally superior to glass fiber reinforced composites? Compos Part A Appl Sci Manuf 35(3):371–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kellenberger D, Althaus HJ, Jungbluth N, Künniger T, Lehmann M, Thalmann P (2007) Life cycle inventories of building products. Final report, Ecoinvent data v2.0, no. 7. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, DübendorfGoogle Scholar
  22. Khabiri M (2014) Management of automobile end of life. Trends Life Sci 3(3):370–374Google Scholar
  23. Kim S, Dale BE, Drzal LT, Misra M (2014) Life cycle assessment of kenaf fiber reinforced biocomposite. J Biobased Mater Bioenergy 2(1):2–3Google Scholar
  24. Lewis AM, Kelly JC, Keoleian GA (2014) Vehicle lightweighting vs. electrification: life cycle energy and GHG emissions results for diverse powertrain vehicles. Appl Energy 126:13–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Luz SM, Caldeira-Pires A, Ferrão PMC (2010) Environmental benefits of substituting talc by sugarcane bagasse fibers as reinforcement in polypropylene composites: ecodesign and LCA as strategy for automotive components. Resour Conserv Recycl 54(12):1135–1144. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mansor MR, Sapuan SM, Zainudin ES, Nuraini AA, Hambali A (2014) Conceptual design of kenaf fiber polymer composite automotive parking brake lever using integrated TRIZ—Morphological Chart-Analytic Hierarchy Process method. Mater Des 1980–2015(54):473–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miller L, Soulliere K, Sawyer-Beaulieu S, Tseng S, Tam E (2014) Challenges and alternatives to plastics recycling in the automotive sector. Materials 7(8):5883–5902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. NHTSA (2006) Vehicle survivability and travel mileage schedules, national highway traffic safety administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, January 2006, p 1Google Scholar
  29. Pervaiz M, Sain M (2003) Carbon storage potential in natural fiber composites. Resources Conserv Recycl 39(4):325–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pervaiz M, Panthapulakkal S, Birat KC, Sain M, Tjong J (2016) Emerging trends in automotive lightweighting through novel composite materials. Sci Res Publ 7(01):26–38Google Scholar
  31. Protocol K (1997) United Nations framework convention on climate change. Kyoto Protocol, Kyoto, 19Google Scholar
  32. Rinne J, Pihlatie M, Lohila A, Thum T, Aurela M, Tuovinen JP, Vesala T (2005) Nitrous oxide emissions from a municipal landfill. Environ Sci Technol 39(20):7790–7793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rosa AD, La Recca G, Summerscales J, Latteri A, Cozzo G, Cicala G (2014) Bio-based versus traditional polymer composites. A life cycle assessment perspective. J Clean Prod 74:135–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Stagner JA, Tam EKL (2012) Polymeric composites and end-of-life vehicles: recycling and sustainability issues. In: SPE Automotive and Composites Divisions—12th annual automotive composites conference and exhibition 2012, ACCE 2012: unleashing the power of design, pp 242–249.
  35. Stagner JA, Sagan B, Tam EK (2013) Using sieving and pretreatment to separate plastics during end-of-life vehicle recycling. Waste Manag Res J Int Solid Wastes Public Clean Assoc ISWA 31(9):920–924CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stans J, Bos H (2007) CO2 reductions from passenger cars. The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment. Public Health and Food Safety (IP/A/ENVI/FWC/2006-172/Lot 1/C2/SC1)Google Scholar
  37. Statista (2018) Vehicle sales worldwide 2017|Statistic. Statista GmbH. Germany, Retrieved 10 Dec 2018, from
  38. Toth RT, Oprean A, Saplontai V, Samuila A, Dascalescu L, Gheorghe M, Cojocaru I (2014) Electrostatic separation of plastic materials recycled from end of life vehicles. Materiale Plastice 51(1):81–85Google Scholar
  39. U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database (2012) National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2012. Accessed 19 Nov 2012
  40. Van den Brink R, Van Wee B (2001) Why has car-fleet specific fuel consumption not shown any decrease since 1990? Quantitative analysis of Dutch passenger car-fleet specific fuel consumption. Transp Res Part D Transp Environ 6(2):75–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Weidema BP, Wesnaes MS (1996) Data quality management for life cycle inventories-an example pf using data quality indicators. J Clean Prod 4(3):167–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wötzel K, Wirth R, Flake M (1999) Life cycle studies on hemp fibre reinforced components and ABS for automotive parts. Die Angewandte Makromolekulare Chemie 272(1):121–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Xu X, Jayaraman K, Morin C, Pecqueux N (2008) Life cycle assessment of wood-fibre-reinforced polypropylene composites. J Mater Process Technol 198(1–3):168–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Biocomposites and Biomaterials ProcessingUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.School of the EnvironmentUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations