Publication Details

Title : Impacts of Vehicle Weight Reduction via Material Substitution on Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Publication Date : September 22, 2015
Publication Journal :
Authors : J. Kelly, J. Sullivan, A. Burnham, A. Elgowainy
Abstract : This study examines the vehicle-cycle and vehicle total life-cycle impacts of substituting lightweight materials into vehicles. We determine part-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emission ratios by collecting material substitution data and evaluating that alongside known mass-based GHG ratios (using and updating Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET model) associated with material pair substitutions. Several vehicle parts are lightweighted via material substitution, using substitution ratios from a U.S. Department of Energy report, to determine GHG emissions. We then examine fuel-cycle GHG reductions from lightweighting. The fuel reduction value methodology is applied using FRV estimates of 0.15–0.25, and 0.25–0.5 L/(100km·100 kg), with and without powertrain adjustments, respectively. GHG breakeven values are derived for both driving distance and material substitution ratio. While material substitution can reduce vehicle weight, it often increases vehicle-cycle GHGs. It is likely that replacing steel (the dominant vehicle material) with wrought aluminum, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CRFP), or magnesium will increase vehicle-cycle GHGs. However, lifetime fuel economy benefits often outweigh the vehicle-cycle, resulting in a net total life-cycle GHG benefit. This is the case for steel replaced by wrought aluminum in all assumed cases, and for CFRP and magnesium except for high substitution ratio and low FRV.