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Life Cycle Analysis of the
Climate Impact of Electric
Vehicles
Author: Dr. Maarten Messagie – Vrije Universiteit Brussel - research group
MOBI
1. Background and objective
The lifecycle environmental impacts of electric cars are a topic of increasing
controversy often originating from biased publications and misused reports.
This report considers the life cycle performance of conventional and electric
vehicles in Europe.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodology, commonly used for the
environmental assessment of vehicle technologies (or any other
product/system). LCA studies consider, all the environmentally significant
processes throughout the life cycle of vehicles, from raw material extraction,
production of components, assembly, transport, vehicle use to the end-of-life
treatment. Since all the life stages are covered from a cradle to grave
perspective, LCA prevents problem shifting. However, the key question is how
to make robust policy decisions when vehicle-LCA literature consists
sometimes of divergent results. To help the debate, the document contains
key findings from literature on vehicle-LCA and specific calculations of
scenarios in which the influence of the carbon footprint on the performance of
electric vehicles in Europe is discussed.
2. Literature review
What are the reasons that the LCA results are divergent? Many LCA
studies exist on the vehicle technologies, including battery electric, CNG,
FCEV, hybrid electric, etc. However, only a few vehicle-LCA review papers
exist. Different results and interpretations are observed in vehicle-LCA
literature. The article of Nordelöf investigates the ‘lessons learned’ from
literature and reviews 79 different vehicle LCA papers, reports the main
findings and explain the reasons of divergence in literature [1]. The
divergence is explained by: (1) variations in systems boundaries, (2)
differences in allocated average or marginal electricity mixes and (3) the
usage of NEDC or real-life monitored tailpipe emissions for comparisons.
Other variations can be explained by: (4) the assumptions of the Life Cycle
Inventory of the glider and the lifetime of the vehicle. Choosing a shorter
lifetime (e.g. 150,000 instead of 200,000) of the vehicle increases the
relative importance of the vehicle production stage. (5) As the battery
production has a significant influence on the impact of a BEV, choosing the
lifetime of the battery is also of key importance together with the battery
chemistry.
One of the most important observations in literature is the variation in system
boundaries in LCA, which has a significant impact on the interpretation of the
																																																								
[1]	Nordelöf,	A.,	Messagie,	M.,	Tillman,	A-M.,	Ljunggren	Söderman,	M.	&	Van	Mierlo,	J.	Environmental	impacts	of	
hybrid,	plug-in	hybrid,	and	battery	electric	vehicles	—	what	can	we	learn	from	life	cycle	assessment?	The	International	
Journal	of	Life	Cycle	Assessment.	21	Aug	2014
results. On one hand, “well-to-wheel” (WTW) studies cover only the life cycle
of the energy carrier (i.e. fuels or electricity) used to drive the vehicles. On
the other hand, the “complete LCA” includes the production of the equipment
cycle.
From Well-to-Wheel studies we can learn that the electricity production
and the degree of electrification is important. Figure 1 shows the minimum
and maximum impact on climate change (in gCO2/km) that is observed in
WTW studies [1].
	
Figure 1 WTW GHG emissions for different electricity production and degrees of
electrification [1]
Figure 2 shows an example of such a WTW study, which examines the
Greenhouse gas emissions of a conventional petrol vehicle compared to BEV,
HEV and PHEV operating in different traffic conditions. The results of HEV,
PHEV and ICE represent large family cars and the BEV is represented by a
small family car. The results for three driving modes, namely city, suburban
and highway, are shown. City driving refers to slow driving with many starts
and stops in highly congested traffic, which suits perfectly for the Brussels
capital region context. Suburban driving refers to a scenario with less
congestion, allowing for higher speeds. Apparently, the highway driving refers
to high speed driving on the motorways, without any stop. Results clearly
show that the electrified vehicles prove to be beneficial for driving in an urban
context, where there are many stops, due to traffic and congestion. The
benefits of regenerative breaking to recover energy while braking can
maximize the energy performance of the BEVs. In addition, at standstill,
conventional ICE vehicles keep idling the internal combustion engines
whereas battery and hybridized (start stop capabilities) vehicles automatically
turn off [2].
																																																								
[2]	Kobayashi,	S.,	Plotkin,	S.,	Ribeiro,	S.	Energy	efficiency	technologies	for	road	vehicles	vol.	2,	no.	2,	p.125–137,	2009
Figure 2 Impact of real world driving and traffic conditions on the WTW
environmental performance of vehicles [3] (Data for BEV are obtained from [4])
According to the literature review done by [5], there is compelling evidence
that official laboratory tested (NEDC) fuel consumption and CO2 tailpipe
emissions do not correspond well to real-life driving conditions. A
difference of 30%-40% is reported between official measurements and real-
life driving are found for conventional vehicles. Many factors contribute to the
differences including: vehicle characteristics (power, configuration, air drag,
weight, auxiliaries, tyre pressure), traffic conditions, driving behaviour,
altitude, road surface and weather conditions. Emissions from electric cars
are highly impacted by the electricity mix and its carbon footprint which is
continuously changing in function of the demand supply (in Belgium a factor 2
difference is observed) [6], the charging profile itself can influence the GHG
emissions of BEVs [7].
The relevance of the inclusion of the equipment cycle (the GHG emissions
resulting from the equipment production) is discussed in [1]. This review
study reveals that 85% of reviewed articles that included the equipment cycle
in the LCA reported that electrification increases the impact of the equipment
cycle, of which the battery is the most contributing component. However, all
																																																								
[3]	Raykin,	L.,	MacLean,	H.	L.,	Roorda,	M.	J.	Implications	of	driving	patterns	on	well-to-wheel	performance	of	plug-in	
hybrid	electric	vehicles,	vol.	46,	no.	11,	2012	
[4]	Faria,	R.	,	Pedro,	M.,	Moura,	P.,	Freire,	F.,	Delgado,	J.,	Almeida,	A.	T.	Impact	of	electricity	mix	and	use	profile	in	the	
life	cycle	assessment	of	electric	vehicles.	Renewable	and	Sustainable	Energy	Reviews,	vol.	24,	pp.	271-287,	2013	
[5]	Fontaras	G.,	Zacharof	N.,	Ciuffo	B.	Fuel	consumption	and	CO2	emissions	from	passenger	cars	in	Europe	–	
Laboratory	versus	real-world	emissions.	Prgress	in	Energy	and	Combustion	Science	60,	p97-131,	2015	
[6]	Messagie,	M.,	Mertens,	J.,	Oliveira,	L.	M.,	Rangaraju,	S.,	Coosemans,	T.	C.,	Van	Mierlo,	J.,Macharis,	C.	The	hourly	life	
cycle	carbon	footprint	of	electricity	generation	in	Belgium,	bringing	a	temporal	resolution	in	life	cycle	assessment.	
Applied	Energy.	134,	p.	469-476	8	p.	2014	
[7]	Rangaraju	,S.,	De	Vroey	,	L.,	Messagie,	M.,	Mertens,	J.,	Van	Mierlo		J.	Impacts	of	electricity	mix,	charging	profile,	
and	driving	behavior	on	the	emissions	performance	of	battery	electric	vehicles:	A	Belgian	case	study.	Applied	Energy.	
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.	2015	
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
BEV
PHEV
HEV	(Petrol)
ICEV	(Petrol)
BEV
PHEV
HEV	(Petrol)
ICEV	(Petrol)
PHEV
HEV	(Petrol)
ICEV	(Petrol)
Urban	driving Suburban Highway
Electricity	BE	mix Petrol
g	CO2e/	km
these studies also reported that the WTW was dominating life cycle stage for
the impact. The impact of the equipment cycle is sensitive to the life time
driven distance, when it is reported per kilometre. Various studies exist on
manufacturing electric vehicles (including the glider and powertrain) [8, 9,
10]. When they would consider a life time driven distance of 150.000 km the
GHG of producing the equipment adds to 46-81 g CO2/km depending on the
source. If a longer life time is considered, 250.000 km, the impact of the
equipment cycle drops to 28-49 g CO2/km. Most often the bill-of-material of a
specific vehicle is confidential and reserved only for the manufacturer. This
data unavailability might be a drawback for LCA studies that are not
commissioned by the automotive sector. An alternative approach, often used
in LCA studies, to manage the vehicle production stage is to model an
average vehicle. The Life cycle inventory (LCI) of the average vehicle is then
used as a parameter to model the production stage of specific vehicles
considering their various weights. The LCI of the average vehicles can be
used to model alternative vehicles, such as battery electric vehicles, by
modelling separately the manufacturing of specific components (such as
batteries, electric motors and power electronics). Fortunately, there are some
detailed vehicle LCI lists released by the automotive sector. The LCI of the
Volkswagen Golf A4, provided by [11], is a well-known data source and is
often used in older vehicle LCA studies.
In the equipment cycle, it is clear that the production of the lithium battery
plays an important role. A large battery LCA review paper [12] reveals that
depending on the literature source and chemistry (LFP, LTO, LCO, LMO, NCM,
NCA) [13], the impact of producing a lithium battery can vary from 40 to 350
kg CO2/kWhbattery capacity, with an average of 110 kg CO2/kWhbattery capacity, see
figure 3. A technical review paper discussing these various battery
chemistries is to be found in [14].
	
																																																								
[8]	Notter,	DA.,	Gauch,	M.,	Widmer,	R.,	Wäger,	P.,	Stamp,	A.,	Zah,	R.,	H-Jr	A.	Contribution	of	li-ion	batteries	to	the	
environmental	impact	of	electric	vehicles.	Environ	Sci	Technol	44(17):6550–	6556	2010	
[9]	Samaras,	C.,	Meisterling,	K.	Life	cycle	assessment	of	greenhouse	gas	emissions	from	plug-in	hybrid	vehicles:	
implications	for	policy—supporting	Online	Information.	Carnegie	Mellon	University,	Pittsburgh,	Pennsylvania,	USA.	
(Supporting	Information	for	Environmental	Science	&	Technology)	2008	
[10]	Hawkins,	TR.,	Singh,	B.,	Majeau-Bettez,	G.,	Strømman,	AH.	Corrigendum	to:	Hawkins,	T.	R.,	B.	Singh,	G.	Majeau-
Bettez,	and	A.	H.	Strømman.	2012.	Comparative	environmental	life	cycle	as-	sessment	of	conventional	and	electric	
vehicles.	J	Ind	Ecol	17(1):	158–160	2013	
[11]	Schweimer,	G.,	Levin,	M.	Life	cycle	inventory	for	the	Golf	A4	(internal	report),	Volkswagen	AG.	Online	available	on:	
http://www.wz.uw.edu.pl/pracownicyFiles/id10927-volkswagen-life-cycle-inventory.pdf	
[12]	Peters,	J.,	Baumann,	M.,	Zimmermann,	B.,	Braun,	J.,	Weil,	M.	The	environmental	impact	of	Li-Ion	batteries	and	the	
role	of	key	parameters	–	A	review.	Renewable	and	Sustainable	Energy	Reviews	67,	p.	491-506,	2017	
[13]	lithium	iron	phosphate	(LFP),	lithium	titanate	oxide	(LTO),	lithium	cobalt	oxide	(LCO),	lithium	manganese	oxide	
(LMO),	nickel	cobalt	manganese	(NCM),	nickel	cobalt	manganese	(NCM),	nickel	cobalt	aluminium	(NCA)	
[14]	Gopalakrishnan,	R.,	Goutam,	S.,	Da	Quinta	E	Costa	Neves	De	Oli,	L.	M.,	Timmermans,	J-M.	P.,	Omar,	N.,	Messagie,	
M.,	.	Van	Mierlo,	J.	A	Comprehensive	Study	on	Rechargeable	Energy	Storage	Technologies.	Journal	of	Electrochemical	
Energy	Conversion	and	Storage,	13(4),	040801.	[JEECS-16-1121].	DOI:	10.1115/1.4036000.	2017
Figure 3: Global Warming potential of manufacturing various Lithium battery
chemistries – a review [12]
Although 113 different papers are examined, only seven papers contain
original life cycle inventories of batteries as many studies build further on the
existing knowledge. To increase the statistical relevance and quality of the
LCA of electric vehicles there is a need for more original papers on the LCI of
battery chemistries (and especially newer chemistries). The parameters that
play a key role in the environmental impact of the production of a 1kWh
lithium battery are: cycle life, calendric life, Depth of Discharge (DoD),
efficiency and energy density. Table 1 summarizes the key findings.
Table 1: Key parameters influencing the global warming potential of producing
various lithium batteries [12]
Average LFP LFP-LTO LCO LMO NCM NCA
cycle life (80%DoD)
[cycles]
2575 7917 967 1006 1659 2832
efficiency [%] 92,4 93 91 93 93,8 91,6
energy density
[kWh/kg]
0,105 0,07 0,172 0,118 0,135 0,103
Climate change
[kgCO2/kWh]
0,161 0,185 0,056 0,055 0,16 0,116
The majority of battery-LCA studies focus on climate change, but other
impact categories (mainly toxicity) are also relevant. Toxicity levels are
primarily a function of the mining activities of the raw materials and the
primary processes. The LFP battery is expected to score best on toxicity,
compared to other chemistries, due to the absence of nickel and cobalt,
whose mining creates a large environmental burden [15]. Figure 4 summarize
literature findings on the toxicity potential of manufacturing lithium batteries
[12]. It is expected that in the near future, the usage of materials will be
fine-tuned and production processes will be optimised when traction batteries
are mass produced, a projection of production optimization and its effects on
cost erosion are discussed in [16] and could be seen as exemplary for other
impacts. Sales prices of batteries packs are expected to go down to
100$/kWh between 2025 and 2030.
Figure 4: Human Toxicity Potential of manufacturing various Lithium battery
chemistries – a review [12]
Urban air quality is a serious problem for human health. As electric vehicles
have no tailpipe emissions while driving in a city centre, they have an
opportunity to improved local air quality at a level that is impossible for
conventional and alternative combustion engines, even with stricter Euro
emission regulations. However, to evaluate the toxicity levels it is of
importance to include regulated, non-regulated (like polyaromatics and
volatile organic compounds, …), exhaust and non-exhaust (like tyre, brake
and road abrasion) emissions; their specific chemical composition and fate in
a toxicity modelling framework. A calculation of ‘Disability adjusted Life years’
(Daly) is used in [17] to aggregate the impact of the various chemicals on
human health. It is concluded that electric vehicles perform up to eight times
better than a recent Euro 6 diesel vehicle when it comes to impact on human
health expressed in DALY, even when considering abrasion and emissions
from electricity generation.
																																																								
[15]	Da	Quinta	E	Costa	Neves	De	Oliveira,	L.	M.,	Messagie,	M.,	Rangaraju,	S.,	Sanfelix	Forner,	J.	V.,	Hernandez	Rivas,	M.	
&	Van	Mierlo,	J.	Key	Issues	of	Lithium-Ion	Batteries	–	From	Resource	Depletion	to	Environmental	Performance	
Indicators	Journal	of	Cleaner	Production.	108A,	p.	354-362	9	p.,	JCLP5668,	2015	
[16]	Berckmans,	G.,	Messagie,	M.,	Smekens,	J.,	Omar,	N.,	Vanhaverbeke,	L.,	Van	Mierlo,	J.	Cost	Projection	of	State	of	
the	Art	Lithium-Ion	Batteries	for	Electric	Vehicles	Up	to	2030.	Energies	2017	
[17]	Hooftman,	N.,	Oliveira,	L.,	Messagie,	M.,	Coosemans,	T.	C.,	Van	Mierlo,	J.	Environmental	Analysis	of	Petrol,	Diesel	
and	Electric	Passenger	Cars	in	a	Belgian	Urban	Setting	Energies.	9,	2,	24	p.,	84	2016
Often the environmental impact of a vehicle calculated with life cycle
assessment is shown as one single value. This approach approximates the
environmental impact of one vehicle, but fails to provide decision-makers
with a wide view on the possible effects of their decisions. The complexity,
uncertainty and variability of the system are not well approximated with one
single value. For instance, when choosing one single car and comparing it
with another car, the full quality of the comparison falls or stands with the
chosen set of vehicles. The variation of one single parameter such as fuel
consumption or the weight of a car within one given vehicle technology and
segment can lead to different results and interpretations. It is therefore
essential to consider the influence of the vehicle parameters on the LCA
results. Uncertainty is an inherent part of LCA and should be considered in
the end result. Hence, to provide a more robust interpretation on the LCA
results of a group of vehicles, a range-based modelling system is developed
that include among other sources of uncertainty the market variability of
vehicles [18].
3. LCA calculation of different scenarios.
To answer specific questions on LCA of electric vehicles and to consider
various scenarios of electricity production, a meta-model has been made
combining key parameters and data from literature.
What is the relative importance of the different stages of the life
cycle? Figure 5 gives an overview of the life cycle stages of an electric and a
conventional vehicle. The complete life cycle of the vehicle summarized into
four parts: 1) Well-to-Tank (WTT) stage - the fuel supply chain, 2) Tank-to-
Wheel (TTW) - energy conversion in the vehicle, 3) Glider – manufacturing,
maintenance and recycling of the vehicle, and 4) the powertrain –
manufacturing the motor, battery and electronics. The selected battery
electric vehicle emits during a full functional life, half the amount of CO2
compared to a conventional reference vehicle. Around 70% of the impact of
the electric vehicle originates from the production of the electricity (E28 mix
of 2015: 300 gCO2/km), the remaining 30% of the impact is evenly split
among the production of the glider (15%) and the lithium battery (around
15%). The impact of the battery production is significant and can be reduced
by using cleaner electricity sources. When only renewable electricity (wind
energy) is used during the production, the impact lowers to 65% of original
impact. Recycling has also an important role to play in reducing impacts of
battery manufacturing (when a crediting system is used) as it lowers the
usage of primary materials. The production of primary materials is an energy
intensive and toxic process, that can be avoided in the future when new
batteries use secondary materials obtained from obsolete batteries When
																																																								
[18]	Messagie,	M.,	Boureima,	F-S.,	Coosemans,	T.	C.,	Macharis,	C.	&	Van	Mierlo,	J.	A	Range-Based	Vehicle	Life	Cycle	
Assessment	Incorporating	Variability	in	the	Environmental	Assessment	of	Different	Vehicle	Technologies	and	Fuels.	
Energies.	7,	3,	p.	1467-1482	16	p.	2014
recycling is combined with the usage of renewable energy the GHG emissions
during the manufacturing can be reduced towards 35% of the original impact.
Figure 5: Significance of the various life cycle stage
The basic assumptions are: a life time driven distance of 200.000km and a weight of
the glider of 1200kg. For the battery electric vehicle following assumption are
considered: a real-life electricity consumption of 0,2 kWh/km [19] and a 30kWh LMO
battery (average of 55 kgCO2/kWh [12]); 1,5 battery replacement is needed over the
life time of the vehicle [20, 17]. The reference diesel vehicle emits 120 gCO2/km on
NEDC, which is augmented with 35% to reflect real life driving conditions [5]. The EU
28 mix of 2015 emits 300gCO2/kWh [21].
Electric vehicles can be fuelled by a wide variety of primary energy sources –
including gas, coal, oil, biomass, wind, solar and nuclear – reducing oil
dependency and enhancing energy security. The carbon footprint of the
allocated electricity to electric vehicles is of utmost importance for the overall
environmental performance. Different scenarios are calculated to investigated
the effect of change the electricity mix with the same reference vehicles as
discussed in figure 5.
Following scenarios are investigated:
																																																								
[19]	De	Cauwer,	C.,	Messagie,	M.,	Heyvaert,	S.,	Coosemans,	T.	&	Van	Mierlo,	J.	Electric	Vehicle	Use	and	Energy	
Consumption	based	on	Real-World	Electric	Vehicle	Fleet	Trip	and	Charge	Data	and	its	Impact	on	Existing	EV	Research	
Models	28th	International	Electric	Vehicle	Symposium	and	Exhibition	2015,	EVS	2015.	Korean	Society	of	Automotive	
Engineers,	p.	645-655	2015	
[20]	Aguirre,	K.,	Eisenhardt,	L.,	Lim,	C.,	Nelson,	B.,	Norring,	A.,	Slowik,	P.,	Tu,	N.	Lifecycle	analysis	comparison	of	a	
battery	electric	vehicle	and	a	conventional	gasoline	vehicle.	Calif	Air	Resour	Board	2012.	
[21]	European	Commission.	EU	Reference	Scenario	2016	Energy,	Transport	And	GHG	Emissions	Trends	To	2050.	DOI:	
10.2833/001137.	2016	
0
50
100
150
200
BEV	(EU	2015	MIX) DIESEL	(REF	120	GCO2/KM)
GCO2EQ/KM
CLIMATE	CHANGE
WTT TTW Glider Li	battery Powertrain
230%	BEV
45%	of	diesel
1%
6%
75%
18%
3%
14%
15%
68%
a) The intensity of grid electricity in different European countries
b) The carbon intensity of specific power plants
c) The effect of anticipated improvements in the carbon intensity of
electricity.
 

The assumptions for the carbon footprint of the different European countries
are based on the report [20] and depicted in figure 6. Sweden and France
have a low carbon intensive electricity mix, due to the inclusion of renewables
and nuclear sources respectively. Belgium and Spain have an electricity mix
with a carbon footprint of 200-290 gCO2/kWh, while in Germany 410 gCO2
are emitted per produced electricity. Poland has the highest GHG emissions to
produce electricity (650 gCO2/kWh) due to the inclusion of hard coal power
plants. The average European (28 member states) carbon footprint of
electricity is 300 gCO2/kWh in 2015 and is expected to drop significantly to
200 gCO2/kWh in 2030 and 80 gCO2/kWh in 2050.
Figure 6: carbon footprint of European member states in 2015, and prognosis of EU
mix in 2015, 2020, 2030 and 2050. Based on data from [21]
Figure 7 shows the influence of the carbon intensity of the national grid
electricity on the impact of electric vehicles in comparison with a benchmark
conventional vehicle. It is clear from the picture that the carbon intensity of
the electricity grid plays an important role. Although electric vehicles using
electricity from the grid in Poland have the highest GHG emissions compared
Average	EU	mix
2015:	300	gC02
/kWh
2020:	260	gC02
/kWh
2030:	200	gC02
/kWh
2050:	80	gC02
/kWh
SE:
20	gCO2
/kWh
FR:
40	gCO2
/kWh
SP:
290	gCO2
/kWh
DE
410	gCO2
/kWh
BE
200	gCO2
/kWh
PL:
650	gCO2
/kWh
to other BEVs, still the associated GHG emissions are 25% lower compared to
the benchmark diesel vehicle. The electricity grids with the lowest carbon
footprint offer a GHG emissions up to 85% compared to the benchmark.
Figure 7: Influence of the carbon footprint of national electricity grids on the
comparison of life cycle GHG emissions of BEV, according to the electricity mixes in
[21].
Figure 8 shows (1) the carbon intensity of various production units (hard coal,
gas, nuclear, wind, solar …) and (2) the anticipated improvements of the EU
carbon intensity of grid electricity in the period between 2015 and 2050. As
the carbon intensity of the European average grid is expected to dramatically
reduce, the GHG emissions allocated to electric vehicles will considerably drop
every decade.
Figure 8: GHG emissions of electric vehicles depending on the energy sources and the
prognosis of the reduction in carbon intensity. Electricity based on [21]
	
This part can be concluded as follows:
	
1. BEVs have significant lower impact on climate change and urban air
quality, compared to conventional vehicles.
2. The single most important opportunity to improve the BEV’s impact lies
in the supply mix of the electricity. Ensuring the usage of more
renewable energy will drastically reduce the impact of the BEV. The
decarbonisation of the electricity grid will reduce numerous impacts of
a BEV, most drastically it will lower the impact on climate change.
Phasing out coal based power plant and substituting it with natural gas
and renewables will significantly improve the performance in Eastern
Europe.
3. A reduction of the weight of a BEV and the related electricity
consumption will drastically reduce the impacts linked to electricity
generation. A weight reduction should come from the substitution of
the steel chassis with a material with a lower weight and from
increasing the energy density of the battery.
4. To lower the environmental impact of the manufacturing stage of all
components of a BEV, the use renewable energy (electricity as well as
heat) plays an important role for further reduction.
5. New chemistries for lithium batteries that avoid the usage energy
intensive and toxic materials can significantly reduce the impact. The
fine-tuning (minimization of material usage in cathode and anode) and
the optimization of production process (larger volumes) of existing
battery technologies will improve the overall impact of the BEV.
6. The recycling of a lithium battery of a BEV has a positive impact as it
helps saving materials and avoids the carbon intensive process of
manufacturing primary material in the future. It is recommended that
European policy makers couple the vehicle end-of-life directive with the
battery end-of-life directive in order to increase the mandatory
recycling efficiency of a vehicular battery.
4. . How to read and perform LCAs
Following points are of utmost importance in understanding and making a
vehicle LCA study.
1. A clear goal and scope definition should be given, making the
purpose of the study clear to the audience. Following questions should
be answered in an LCA report.
a. Goal
i. What is the objective of the study?
ii. What is the intended use of the results?
iii. Who is the target audience?
iv. Who is the commissioner?
v. Who are the stakeholder and what are their interest and
involvement?
vi. What is the functional unit?
b. Scope
i. What are the system boundaries?
ii. What is the temporal and geographical scope of the
study?
iii. What are the data quality targets?
iv. Who will review the report?
2. The modelling framework and system boundaries highly influence
the end result. For instance, the performance of the BEV depends
highly on the allocated electricity source. Which electricity mix should
be considered when performing an environmental assessment of
electric vehicles? In literature both average and marginal electricity
mixes are allocated to electric vehicles, resulting in unclear
recommendations to decision-makers. The marginal system modelling
approach falsely claims to model all the consequences that the new
and additional customer (the BEV) has on the extra needed capacity in
the electricity grid. However, the determination of the technologies
that change the future installed electricity capacity is constrained by
many issues not related to a change in demand: political targets,
business perspectives, emission trading systems, emission ceilings,
physical limitations and demand of co-products. Therefore, the change
in installed capacity can’t be allocated solely to an additional consumer
and should be allocated to the full market.
3. The impact categories: The focus of literature is mostly on climate
change and CO2 eq. emissions, while other impact categories are
important to investigate. A full life cycle impact assessment should
address various impact categories to avoid shifting problems from one
impact category to another. Examples of impact categories: Climate
change, Ozone Depletion, Terrestrial Acidification, Freshwater
eutrophication, Marine eutrophication, Human toxicity, Photochemical
oxidant formation, Particle matter formation, Terrestrial ecotoxicity,
Marine ecotoxicity, Ionising radiation, Agricultural land occupation, Urban
land occupation, Natural land transformation, Water depletion, Mineral
resource depletion and Fossil fuel depletion.
4. Data quality: The quality of a Life Cycle Assessment depends highly
on the quality of all the data and assumptions that are used in the
modelling phase. An important example is: The New European Driving
Cycle (NEDC) does not resemble real driving conditions. The main
European LCA studies on vehicles use the NEDC test to have values for
the energy consumption and tailpipe emissions (for the conventional
vehicles). The NEDC test mainly underestimates the consumption
levels and tailpipe emissions. Prospective vehicle LCA studies should
address the difference between the real-life values and the NEDC
values for energy consumption and tailpipe emissions.
5. Uncertainty propagation: One of the main shortcoming in the
reviewed literature is the lack of incorporating uncertainties and
market variability. The environmental impacts are shown with single
values, which is not a robust description of the end result. This
approach approximates the environmental impact of a vehicle, but fails
to provide a wider view on the possible effects. The complexity,
uncertainty and variability of the system are not well approximated
with one single value. Uncertainties are an inherent part of LCA and
should not be avoided but embraced and made explicit in the result.
Identifying and integrating uncertainties in the result gives a more
robust interpretation. A range-based vehicle-LCA model is developed in
[18].

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ACV des véhicules électriques en Europe - Transport&Environment / Université de Bruxelles

  • 1. Life Cycle Analysis of the Climate Impact of Electric Vehicles Author: Dr. Maarten Messagie – Vrije Universiteit Brussel - research group MOBI
  • 2. 1. Background and objective The lifecycle environmental impacts of electric cars are a topic of increasing controversy often originating from biased publications and misused reports. This report considers the life cycle performance of conventional and electric vehicles in Europe. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodology, commonly used for the environmental assessment of vehicle technologies (or any other product/system). LCA studies consider, all the environmentally significant processes throughout the life cycle of vehicles, from raw material extraction, production of components, assembly, transport, vehicle use to the end-of-life treatment. Since all the life stages are covered from a cradle to grave perspective, LCA prevents problem shifting. However, the key question is how to make robust policy decisions when vehicle-LCA literature consists sometimes of divergent results. To help the debate, the document contains key findings from literature on vehicle-LCA and specific calculations of scenarios in which the influence of the carbon footprint on the performance of electric vehicles in Europe is discussed. 2. Literature review What are the reasons that the LCA results are divergent? Many LCA studies exist on the vehicle technologies, including battery electric, CNG, FCEV, hybrid electric, etc. However, only a few vehicle-LCA review papers exist. Different results and interpretations are observed in vehicle-LCA literature. The article of Nordelöf investigates the ‘lessons learned’ from literature and reviews 79 different vehicle LCA papers, reports the main findings and explain the reasons of divergence in literature [1]. The divergence is explained by: (1) variations in systems boundaries, (2) differences in allocated average or marginal electricity mixes and (3) the usage of NEDC or real-life monitored tailpipe emissions for comparisons. Other variations can be explained by: (4) the assumptions of the Life Cycle Inventory of the glider and the lifetime of the vehicle. Choosing a shorter lifetime (e.g. 150,000 instead of 200,000) of the vehicle increases the relative importance of the vehicle production stage. (5) As the battery production has a significant influence on the impact of a BEV, choosing the lifetime of the battery is also of key importance together with the battery chemistry. One of the most important observations in literature is the variation in system boundaries in LCA, which has a significant impact on the interpretation of the [1] Nordelöf, A., Messagie, M., Tillman, A-M., Ljunggren Söderman, M. & Van Mierlo, J. Environmental impacts of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles — what can we learn from life cycle assessment? The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 21 Aug 2014
  • 3. results. On one hand, “well-to-wheel” (WTW) studies cover only the life cycle of the energy carrier (i.e. fuels or electricity) used to drive the vehicles. On the other hand, the “complete LCA” includes the production of the equipment cycle. From Well-to-Wheel studies we can learn that the electricity production and the degree of electrification is important. Figure 1 shows the minimum and maximum impact on climate change (in gCO2/km) that is observed in WTW studies [1]. Figure 1 WTW GHG emissions for different electricity production and degrees of electrification [1] Figure 2 shows an example of such a WTW study, which examines the Greenhouse gas emissions of a conventional petrol vehicle compared to BEV, HEV and PHEV operating in different traffic conditions. The results of HEV, PHEV and ICE represent large family cars and the BEV is represented by a small family car. The results for three driving modes, namely city, suburban and highway, are shown. City driving refers to slow driving with many starts and stops in highly congested traffic, which suits perfectly for the Brussels capital region context. Suburban driving refers to a scenario with less congestion, allowing for higher speeds. Apparently, the highway driving refers to high speed driving on the motorways, without any stop. Results clearly show that the electrified vehicles prove to be beneficial for driving in an urban context, where there are many stops, due to traffic and congestion. The benefits of regenerative breaking to recover energy while braking can maximize the energy performance of the BEVs. In addition, at standstill, conventional ICE vehicles keep idling the internal combustion engines whereas battery and hybridized (start stop capabilities) vehicles automatically turn off [2]. [2] Kobayashi, S., Plotkin, S., Ribeiro, S. Energy efficiency technologies for road vehicles vol. 2, no. 2, p.125–137, 2009
  • 4. Figure 2 Impact of real world driving and traffic conditions on the WTW environmental performance of vehicles [3] (Data for BEV are obtained from [4]) According to the literature review done by [5], there is compelling evidence that official laboratory tested (NEDC) fuel consumption and CO2 tailpipe emissions do not correspond well to real-life driving conditions. A difference of 30%-40% is reported between official measurements and real- life driving are found for conventional vehicles. Many factors contribute to the differences including: vehicle characteristics (power, configuration, air drag, weight, auxiliaries, tyre pressure), traffic conditions, driving behaviour, altitude, road surface and weather conditions. Emissions from electric cars are highly impacted by the electricity mix and its carbon footprint which is continuously changing in function of the demand supply (in Belgium a factor 2 difference is observed) [6], the charging profile itself can influence the GHG emissions of BEVs [7]. The relevance of the inclusion of the equipment cycle (the GHG emissions resulting from the equipment production) is discussed in [1]. This review study reveals that 85% of reviewed articles that included the equipment cycle in the LCA reported that electrification increases the impact of the equipment cycle, of which the battery is the most contributing component. However, all [3] Raykin, L., MacLean, H. L., Roorda, M. J. Implications of driving patterns on well-to-wheel performance of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, vol. 46, no. 11, 2012 [4] Faria, R. , Pedro, M., Moura, P., Freire, F., Delgado, J., Almeida, A. T. Impact of electricity mix and use profile in the life cycle assessment of electric vehicles. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 24, pp. 271-287, 2013 [5] Fontaras G., Zacharof N., Ciuffo B. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars in Europe – Laboratory versus real-world emissions. Prgress in Energy and Combustion Science 60, p97-131, 2015 [6] Messagie, M., Mertens, J., Oliveira, L. M., Rangaraju, S., Coosemans, T. C., Van Mierlo, J.,Macharis, C. The hourly life cycle carbon footprint of electricity generation in Belgium, bringing a temporal resolution in life cycle assessment. Applied Energy. 134, p. 469-476 8 p. 2014 [7] Rangaraju ,S., De Vroey , L., Messagie, M., Mertens, J., Van Mierlo J. Impacts of electricity mix, charging profile, and driving behavior on the emissions performance of battery electric vehicles: A Belgian case study. Applied Energy. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy. 2015 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 BEV PHEV HEV (Petrol) ICEV (Petrol) BEV PHEV HEV (Petrol) ICEV (Petrol) PHEV HEV (Petrol) ICEV (Petrol) Urban driving Suburban Highway Electricity BE mix Petrol g CO2e/ km
  • 5. these studies also reported that the WTW was dominating life cycle stage for the impact. The impact of the equipment cycle is sensitive to the life time driven distance, when it is reported per kilometre. Various studies exist on manufacturing electric vehicles (including the glider and powertrain) [8, 9, 10]. When they would consider a life time driven distance of 150.000 km the GHG of producing the equipment adds to 46-81 g CO2/km depending on the source. If a longer life time is considered, 250.000 km, the impact of the equipment cycle drops to 28-49 g CO2/km. Most often the bill-of-material of a specific vehicle is confidential and reserved only for the manufacturer. This data unavailability might be a drawback for LCA studies that are not commissioned by the automotive sector. An alternative approach, often used in LCA studies, to manage the vehicle production stage is to model an average vehicle. The Life cycle inventory (LCI) of the average vehicle is then used as a parameter to model the production stage of specific vehicles considering their various weights. The LCI of the average vehicles can be used to model alternative vehicles, such as battery electric vehicles, by modelling separately the manufacturing of specific components (such as batteries, electric motors and power electronics). Fortunately, there are some detailed vehicle LCI lists released by the automotive sector. The LCI of the Volkswagen Golf A4, provided by [11], is a well-known data source and is often used in older vehicle LCA studies. In the equipment cycle, it is clear that the production of the lithium battery plays an important role. A large battery LCA review paper [12] reveals that depending on the literature source and chemistry (LFP, LTO, LCO, LMO, NCM, NCA) [13], the impact of producing a lithium battery can vary from 40 to 350 kg CO2/kWhbattery capacity, with an average of 110 kg CO2/kWhbattery capacity, see figure 3. A technical review paper discussing these various battery chemistries is to be found in [14]. [8] Notter, DA., Gauch, M., Widmer, R., Wäger, P., Stamp, A., Zah, R., H-Jr A. Contribution of li-ion batteries to the environmental impact of electric vehicles. Environ Sci Technol 44(17):6550– 6556 2010 [9] Samaras, C., Meisterling, K. Life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from plug-in hybrid vehicles: implications for policy—supporting Online Information. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. (Supporting Information for Environmental Science & Technology) 2008 [10] Hawkins, TR., Singh, B., Majeau-Bettez, G., Strømman, AH. Corrigendum to: Hawkins, T. R., B. Singh, G. Majeau- Bettez, and A. H. Strømman. 2012. Comparative environmental life cycle as- sessment of conventional and electric vehicles. J Ind Ecol 17(1): 158–160 2013 [11] Schweimer, G., Levin, M. Life cycle inventory for the Golf A4 (internal report), Volkswagen AG. Online available on: http://www.wz.uw.edu.pl/pracownicyFiles/id10927-volkswagen-life-cycle-inventory.pdf [12] Peters, J., Baumann, M., Zimmermann, B., Braun, J., Weil, M. The environmental impact of Li-Ion batteries and the role of key parameters – A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 67, p. 491-506, 2017 [13] lithium iron phosphate (LFP), lithium titanate oxide (LTO), lithium cobalt oxide (LCO), lithium manganese oxide (LMO), nickel cobalt manganese (NCM), nickel cobalt manganese (NCM), nickel cobalt aluminium (NCA) [14] Gopalakrishnan, R., Goutam, S., Da Quinta E Costa Neves De Oli, L. M., Timmermans, J-M. P., Omar, N., Messagie, M., . Van Mierlo, J. A Comprehensive Study on Rechargeable Energy Storage Technologies. Journal of Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage, 13(4), 040801. [JEECS-16-1121]. DOI: 10.1115/1.4036000. 2017
  • 6. Figure 3: Global Warming potential of manufacturing various Lithium battery chemistries – a review [12] Although 113 different papers are examined, only seven papers contain original life cycle inventories of batteries as many studies build further on the existing knowledge. To increase the statistical relevance and quality of the LCA of electric vehicles there is a need for more original papers on the LCI of battery chemistries (and especially newer chemistries). The parameters that play a key role in the environmental impact of the production of a 1kWh lithium battery are: cycle life, calendric life, Depth of Discharge (DoD), efficiency and energy density. Table 1 summarizes the key findings. Table 1: Key parameters influencing the global warming potential of producing various lithium batteries [12] Average LFP LFP-LTO LCO LMO NCM NCA cycle life (80%DoD) [cycles] 2575 7917 967 1006 1659 2832 efficiency [%] 92,4 93 91 93 93,8 91,6 energy density [kWh/kg] 0,105 0,07 0,172 0,118 0,135 0,103 Climate change [kgCO2/kWh] 0,161 0,185 0,056 0,055 0,16 0,116 The majority of battery-LCA studies focus on climate change, but other impact categories (mainly toxicity) are also relevant. Toxicity levels are primarily a function of the mining activities of the raw materials and the primary processes. The LFP battery is expected to score best on toxicity, compared to other chemistries, due to the absence of nickel and cobalt,
  • 7. whose mining creates a large environmental burden [15]. Figure 4 summarize literature findings on the toxicity potential of manufacturing lithium batteries [12]. It is expected that in the near future, the usage of materials will be fine-tuned and production processes will be optimised when traction batteries are mass produced, a projection of production optimization and its effects on cost erosion are discussed in [16] and could be seen as exemplary for other impacts. Sales prices of batteries packs are expected to go down to 100$/kWh between 2025 and 2030. Figure 4: Human Toxicity Potential of manufacturing various Lithium battery chemistries – a review [12] Urban air quality is a serious problem for human health. As electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions while driving in a city centre, they have an opportunity to improved local air quality at a level that is impossible for conventional and alternative combustion engines, even with stricter Euro emission regulations. However, to evaluate the toxicity levels it is of importance to include regulated, non-regulated (like polyaromatics and volatile organic compounds, …), exhaust and non-exhaust (like tyre, brake and road abrasion) emissions; their specific chemical composition and fate in a toxicity modelling framework. A calculation of ‘Disability adjusted Life years’ (Daly) is used in [17] to aggregate the impact of the various chemicals on human health. It is concluded that electric vehicles perform up to eight times better than a recent Euro 6 diesel vehicle when it comes to impact on human health expressed in DALY, even when considering abrasion and emissions from electricity generation. [15] Da Quinta E Costa Neves De Oliveira, L. M., Messagie, M., Rangaraju, S., Sanfelix Forner, J. V., Hernandez Rivas, M. & Van Mierlo, J. Key Issues of Lithium-Ion Batteries – From Resource Depletion to Environmental Performance Indicators Journal of Cleaner Production. 108A, p. 354-362 9 p., JCLP5668, 2015 [16] Berckmans, G., Messagie, M., Smekens, J., Omar, N., Vanhaverbeke, L., Van Mierlo, J. Cost Projection of State of the Art Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles Up to 2030. Energies 2017 [17] Hooftman, N., Oliveira, L., Messagie, M., Coosemans, T. C., Van Mierlo, J. Environmental Analysis of Petrol, Diesel and Electric Passenger Cars in a Belgian Urban Setting Energies. 9, 2, 24 p., 84 2016
  • 8. Often the environmental impact of a vehicle calculated with life cycle assessment is shown as one single value. This approach approximates the environmental impact of one vehicle, but fails to provide decision-makers with a wide view on the possible effects of their decisions. The complexity, uncertainty and variability of the system are not well approximated with one single value. For instance, when choosing one single car and comparing it with another car, the full quality of the comparison falls or stands with the chosen set of vehicles. The variation of one single parameter such as fuel consumption or the weight of a car within one given vehicle technology and segment can lead to different results and interpretations. It is therefore essential to consider the influence of the vehicle parameters on the LCA results. Uncertainty is an inherent part of LCA and should be considered in the end result. Hence, to provide a more robust interpretation on the LCA results of a group of vehicles, a range-based modelling system is developed that include among other sources of uncertainty the market variability of vehicles [18]. 3. LCA calculation of different scenarios. To answer specific questions on LCA of electric vehicles and to consider various scenarios of electricity production, a meta-model has been made combining key parameters and data from literature. What is the relative importance of the different stages of the life cycle? Figure 5 gives an overview of the life cycle stages of an electric and a conventional vehicle. The complete life cycle of the vehicle summarized into four parts: 1) Well-to-Tank (WTT) stage - the fuel supply chain, 2) Tank-to- Wheel (TTW) - energy conversion in the vehicle, 3) Glider – manufacturing, maintenance and recycling of the vehicle, and 4) the powertrain – manufacturing the motor, battery and electronics. The selected battery electric vehicle emits during a full functional life, half the amount of CO2 compared to a conventional reference vehicle. Around 70% of the impact of the electric vehicle originates from the production of the electricity (E28 mix of 2015: 300 gCO2/km), the remaining 30% of the impact is evenly split among the production of the glider (15%) and the lithium battery (around 15%). The impact of the battery production is significant and can be reduced by using cleaner electricity sources. When only renewable electricity (wind energy) is used during the production, the impact lowers to 65% of original impact. Recycling has also an important role to play in reducing impacts of battery manufacturing (when a crediting system is used) as it lowers the usage of primary materials. The production of primary materials is an energy intensive and toxic process, that can be avoided in the future when new batteries use secondary materials obtained from obsolete batteries When [18] Messagie, M., Boureima, F-S., Coosemans, T. C., Macharis, C. & Van Mierlo, J. A Range-Based Vehicle Life Cycle Assessment Incorporating Variability in the Environmental Assessment of Different Vehicle Technologies and Fuels. Energies. 7, 3, p. 1467-1482 16 p. 2014
  • 9. recycling is combined with the usage of renewable energy the GHG emissions during the manufacturing can be reduced towards 35% of the original impact. Figure 5: Significance of the various life cycle stage The basic assumptions are: a life time driven distance of 200.000km and a weight of the glider of 1200kg. For the battery electric vehicle following assumption are considered: a real-life electricity consumption of 0,2 kWh/km [19] and a 30kWh LMO battery (average of 55 kgCO2/kWh [12]); 1,5 battery replacement is needed over the life time of the vehicle [20, 17]. The reference diesel vehicle emits 120 gCO2/km on NEDC, which is augmented with 35% to reflect real life driving conditions [5]. The EU 28 mix of 2015 emits 300gCO2/kWh [21]. Electric vehicles can be fuelled by a wide variety of primary energy sources – including gas, coal, oil, biomass, wind, solar and nuclear – reducing oil dependency and enhancing energy security. The carbon footprint of the allocated electricity to electric vehicles is of utmost importance for the overall environmental performance. Different scenarios are calculated to investigated the effect of change the electricity mix with the same reference vehicles as discussed in figure 5. Following scenarios are investigated: [19] De Cauwer, C., Messagie, M., Heyvaert, S., Coosemans, T. & Van Mierlo, J. Electric Vehicle Use and Energy Consumption based on Real-World Electric Vehicle Fleet Trip and Charge Data and its Impact on Existing EV Research Models 28th International Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition 2015, EVS 2015. Korean Society of Automotive Engineers, p. 645-655 2015 [20] Aguirre, K., Eisenhardt, L., Lim, C., Nelson, B., Norring, A., Slowik, P., Tu, N. Lifecycle analysis comparison of a battery electric vehicle and a conventional gasoline vehicle. Calif Air Resour Board 2012. [21] European Commission. EU Reference Scenario 2016 Energy, Transport And GHG Emissions Trends To 2050. DOI: 10.2833/001137. 2016 0 50 100 150 200 BEV (EU 2015 MIX) DIESEL (REF 120 GCO2/KM) GCO2EQ/KM CLIMATE CHANGE WTT TTW Glider Li battery Powertrain 230% BEV 45% of diesel 1% 6% 75% 18% 3% 14% 15% 68%
  • 10. a) The intensity of grid electricity in different European countries b) The carbon intensity of specific power plants c) The effect of anticipated improvements in the carbon intensity of electricity.
 
 The assumptions for the carbon footprint of the different European countries are based on the report [20] and depicted in figure 6. Sweden and France have a low carbon intensive electricity mix, due to the inclusion of renewables and nuclear sources respectively. Belgium and Spain have an electricity mix with a carbon footprint of 200-290 gCO2/kWh, while in Germany 410 gCO2 are emitted per produced electricity. Poland has the highest GHG emissions to produce electricity (650 gCO2/kWh) due to the inclusion of hard coal power plants. The average European (28 member states) carbon footprint of electricity is 300 gCO2/kWh in 2015 and is expected to drop significantly to 200 gCO2/kWh in 2030 and 80 gCO2/kWh in 2050. Figure 6: carbon footprint of European member states in 2015, and prognosis of EU mix in 2015, 2020, 2030 and 2050. Based on data from [21] Figure 7 shows the influence of the carbon intensity of the national grid electricity on the impact of electric vehicles in comparison with a benchmark conventional vehicle. It is clear from the picture that the carbon intensity of the electricity grid plays an important role. Although electric vehicles using electricity from the grid in Poland have the highest GHG emissions compared Average EU mix 2015: 300 gC02 /kWh 2020: 260 gC02 /kWh 2030: 200 gC02 /kWh 2050: 80 gC02 /kWh SE: 20 gCO2 /kWh FR: 40 gCO2 /kWh SP: 290 gCO2 /kWh DE 410 gCO2 /kWh BE 200 gCO2 /kWh PL: 650 gCO2 /kWh
  • 11. to other BEVs, still the associated GHG emissions are 25% lower compared to the benchmark diesel vehicle. The electricity grids with the lowest carbon footprint offer a GHG emissions up to 85% compared to the benchmark. Figure 7: Influence of the carbon footprint of national electricity grids on the comparison of life cycle GHG emissions of BEV, according to the electricity mixes in [21]. Figure 8 shows (1) the carbon intensity of various production units (hard coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar …) and (2) the anticipated improvements of the EU carbon intensity of grid electricity in the period between 2015 and 2050. As the carbon intensity of the European average grid is expected to dramatically reduce, the GHG emissions allocated to electric vehicles will considerably drop every decade.
  • 12. Figure 8: GHG emissions of electric vehicles depending on the energy sources and the prognosis of the reduction in carbon intensity. Electricity based on [21] This part can be concluded as follows: 1. BEVs have significant lower impact on climate change and urban air quality, compared to conventional vehicles. 2. The single most important opportunity to improve the BEV’s impact lies in the supply mix of the electricity. Ensuring the usage of more renewable energy will drastically reduce the impact of the BEV. The decarbonisation of the electricity grid will reduce numerous impacts of a BEV, most drastically it will lower the impact on climate change. Phasing out coal based power plant and substituting it with natural gas and renewables will significantly improve the performance in Eastern Europe. 3. A reduction of the weight of a BEV and the related electricity consumption will drastically reduce the impacts linked to electricity generation. A weight reduction should come from the substitution of the steel chassis with a material with a lower weight and from increasing the energy density of the battery. 4. To lower the environmental impact of the manufacturing stage of all components of a BEV, the use renewable energy (electricity as well as heat) plays an important role for further reduction. 5. New chemistries for lithium batteries that avoid the usage energy intensive and toxic materials can significantly reduce the impact. The fine-tuning (minimization of material usage in cathode and anode) and the optimization of production process (larger volumes) of existing battery technologies will improve the overall impact of the BEV.
  • 13. 6. The recycling of a lithium battery of a BEV has a positive impact as it helps saving materials and avoids the carbon intensive process of manufacturing primary material in the future. It is recommended that European policy makers couple the vehicle end-of-life directive with the battery end-of-life directive in order to increase the mandatory recycling efficiency of a vehicular battery. 4. . How to read and perform LCAs Following points are of utmost importance in understanding and making a vehicle LCA study. 1. A clear goal and scope definition should be given, making the purpose of the study clear to the audience. Following questions should be answered in an LCA report. a. Goal i. What is the objective of the study? ii. What is the intended use of the results? iii. Who is the target audience? iv. Who is the commissioner? v. Who are the stakeholder and what are their interest and involvement? vi. What is the functional unit? b. Scope i. What are the system boundaries? ii. What is the temporal and geographical scope of the study? iii. What are the data quality targets? iv. Who will review the report? 2. The modelling framework and system boundaries highly influence the end result. For instance, the performance of the BEV depends highly on the allocated electricity source. Which electricity mix should be considered when performing an environmental assessment of electric vehicles? In literature both average and marginal electricity mixes are allocated to electric vehicles, resulting in unclear recommendations to decision-makers. The marginal system modelling approach falsely claims to model all the consequences that the new and additional customer (the BEV) has on the extra needed capacity in the electricity grid. However, the determination of the technologies that change the future installed electricity capacity is constrained by many issues not related to a change in demand: political targets, business perspectives, emission trading systems, emission ceilings, physical limitations and demand of co-products. Therefore, the change in installed capacity can’t be allocated solely to an additional consumer and should be allocated to the full market. 3. The impact categories: The focus of literature is mostly on climate change and CO2 eq. emissions, while other impact categories are important to investigate. A full life cycle impact assessment should
  • 14. address various impact categories to avoid shifting problems from one impact category to another. Examples of impact categories: Climate change, Ozone Depletion, Terrestrial Acidification, Freshwater eutrophication, Marine eutrophication, Human toxicity, Photochemical oxidant formation, Particle matter formation, Terrestrial ecotoxicity, Marine ecotoxicity, Ionising radiation, Agricultural land occupation, Urban land occupation, Natural land transformation, Water depletion, Mineral resource depletion and Fossil fuel depletion. 4. Data quality: The quality of a Life Cycle Assessment depends highly on the quality of all the data and assumptions that are used in the modelling phase. An important example is: The New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) does not resemble real driving conditions. The main European LCA studies on vehicles use the NEDC test to have values for the energy consumption and tailpipe emissions (for the conventional vehicles). The NEDC test mainly underestimates the consumption levels and tailpipe emissions. Prospective vehicle LCA studies should address the difference between the real-life values and the NEDC values for energy consumption and tailpipe emissions. 5. Uncertainty propagation: One of the main shortcoming in the reviewed literature is the lack of incorporating uncertainties and market variability. The environmental impacts are shown with single values, which is not a robust description of the end result. This approach approximates the environmental impact of a vehicle, but fails to provide a wider view on the possible effects. The complexity, uncertainty and variability of the system are not well approximated with one single value. Uncertainties are an inherent part of LCA and should not be avoided but embraced and made explicit in the result. Identifying and integrating uncertainties in the result gives a more robust interpretation. A range-based vehicle-LCA model is developed in [18].