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Life cycle assessment as a tool for analyzing the CO2 footprint of passenger cars with different powertrains

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Internationaler Motorenkongress 2020

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In order to comply with increasingly strict CO2 emission limits under tightened boundary conditions, automobile manufacturers rely more and more on electrified and purely electric powertrains. This trend can be explained by EU regulations, which do not attribute CO2 emissions to battery electric vehicles (BEV), as BEVs do not cause local CO2 emissions during the use phase. However, in order to evaluate the effective contribution of private transport to climate protection goals, a holistic system perspective on greenhouse gas emissions – i.e. cradle-to-grave instead of tank-to-wheel – is required.

In this regard, life cycle assessment (LCA) is an appropriate tool as it considers the entire product life cycle, which involves production, use and disposal/recycling of the product. Moreover, it allows the evaluation of different environmental impact categories, such as climate change (units of kg CO2 equivalent), agricultural land occupation, natural land transformation, water depletion, etc.

Within this paper, a comprehensive and well-defined goal and scope phase of the LCA – different comparisons of passenger cars will be presented. This includes an internal combustion engine vehicle, both with conventional and renewable fuel, and a BEV, mainly with regard to greenhouse gas emissions as well as the aforementioned additional impact categories. Some of the most striking sensitivities are discussed, including the effect of the chosen amount of vehicle kilometers as a functional unit, the electricity mix in the production and use phase.

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Weber, P., Buchgeister, J., Toedter, O., Koch, T. (2020). Life cycle assessment as a tool for analyzing the CO2 footprint of passenger cars with different powertrains. In: Liebl, J., Beidl, C., Maus, W. (eds) Internationaler Motorenkongress 2020. Proceedings. Springer Vieweg, Wiesbaden.

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