The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 1213–1231 | Cite as

A hybrid life cycle assessment of public transportation buses with alternative fuel options

INPUT-OUTPUT AND HYBRID LCA

Abstract

Purpose

Alternative fuel options are gaining popularity in the vehicle market. Adopting alternative fuel options for public transportation compared to passenger vehicles contributes exponentially to reductions in transportation-related environmental impacts. Therefore, this study aims to present total air pollutant emissions and water withdrawal impacts through the lifetime of a transit bus with different fuel options.

Methods

In consideration of market share and future development trends, diesel, biodiesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), hybrid (diesel-electric), and battery electric (BE) transit buses are analyzed with an input-output (IO)-based hybrid life cycle assessment (LCA) model. In order to accommodate the sensitivity of total impacts to fuel economy, three commonly used driving cycles are considered: Manhattan, Central Business District (CBD), and Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA). Fuel economy for each of these driving cycles varies over the year with other impacts, so a normal distribution of fuel economy is developed with a Monte Carlo simulation model for each driving cycle and corresponding fuel type.

Results and discussion

Impacts from a solar panel (photovoltaic, PV) charging scenario and different grid mix scenarios are evaluated and compared to the nation’s average grid mix impacts from energy generation to accommodate the lifetime electricity needs for the BE transit bus. From these results, it was found that the BE transit bus causes significantly low CO2 emissions than diesel and other alternative fuel options, while some of the driving cycles of the hybrid-powered transit bus cause comparable emissions to BE transit bus. On the other hand, lifetime water withdrawal impacts of the diesel and hybrid options are more feasible compared to other options, since electricity generation and natural gas manufacturing are both heavily dependent on water withdrawal. In addition, the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) regional electricity grid mix impacts on CO2 emissions and water withdrawal are presented for the BE transit bus.

Conclusions

As an addition of current literature, LCA of alternative fuel options was performed in this paper for transit buses with the consideration of a wide variety of environmental indicators. Although the results indicate that BE and hybrid-powered buses have less environmental emissions, the US’s dependency on fossil fuel for electricity generation continues to yield significant lifetime impacts on BE transit bus operation. With respect to water withdrawal impacts, we believe that the adoption of BE transit buses will be faster and more environmentally feasible for some NREC regions than for others.

Keywords

Alternative fuel-powered transit buses Environmental life cycle assessment Electricity grid mix Monte Carlo simulation Water withdrawal 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction EngineeringUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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