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

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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Masoud Akhshik.

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Akhshik, M., Panthapulakkal, S., Tjong, J. et al. The effect of lightweighting on greenhouse gas emissions and life cycle energy for automotive composite parts. Clean Techn Environ Policy 21, 625–636 (2019).

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