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Lightweighting in light commercial vehicles: cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment of a safety-relevant component

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Currently, the reduction of weight in automotive is a very important topic in order to lower the air pollution. In this context, the purpose of the present paper was to analyze a real case study through a comparison of the environmental sustainability between a conventional steel crossbeam for light commercial vehicles and an innovative lightweight aluminum one.


For both scenarios, a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment methodology and a sensitivity analysis has been used through the study of the following phases: mineral extraction, component manufacturing, use on vehicle, and end of life. In particular, many primary data and a complete vehicle model simulation with three different European driving cycles have been used in order to reach the highest possible level of accuracy during the analysis.

Results and discussion

Regarding the manufacturing phase, the aluminum component’s production gave the highest impact because of the high energy required in the mineral reduction. Anyway, this stage of the analysis had a low effect on the entire LCA, because the benefit of weight reduction during vehicle use showed a strongly higher contribution. The urban driving cycle had the most relevant impact, as a consequence of the frequent start and stop operations and the longest time with engine at idle speed, while the extra-urban cycle is the less demanding due to its higher average speed and no start and stop.


In conclusion, the present research demonstrated the environmental importance of the lightweight for an actual case study in the commercial vehicles field.

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The component object of the study has been developed by Streparava SpA. The authors are grateful to Streparava SpA and Mr. Antonio Gandellini for the support in providing data.

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Correspondence to Silvia Cecchel.

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Responsible editor: Wulf-Peter Schmidt

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Cecchel, S., Chindamo, D., Collotta, M. et al. Lightweighting in light commercial vehicles: cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment of a safety-relevant component. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23, 2043–2054 (2018).

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